‘How I Started’, Part 1: learning from the Archives & Records Association (UK)’s Section for New Professionals e-magazine

I’d known about the Archive & Records Association (UK) for a while before I joined as a student member, and upon joining, I came across the Section for New Professionals, and their e-magazine, Off the Record.

‘How I Started’, a series of articles from the e-magazine, looks at the early career experiences of a range of information professionals. To date, the series includes 18 articles, from professionals in different countries, and with a range of backgrounds and experiences entering into their profession. Being a nosey bugger, I’ve read them all, and it’s really encouraging to hear about the different routes that people have followed to get to their information profession. The articles also hold some great advice for new professionals, and people thinking about entering the archives and records professions.

It seems that a ‘traditional’ route into archives usually begins with a history degree, or some vague interest in history and historical material. Many articles, such as that of Luciana Duranti, Melinda Haunton, and David Jenkins, discuss their starting point from an interest of, and various higher education experiences in history. Nancy Charley, however, writes about her background in poetry, finding out about archives through a conversation with a peer on poetry course. Nancy is not alone in coming from a less ‘traditional ‘ background; students in my September 2016 intake do come with a history-based background, but there are also people going through a complete career change, and those without a background or an undergraduate degree in history.

What is really fab about the ‘How I Started’ articles, is that they also show that there is not one single career path. Caroline Williams‘ article shows that there are so many options in the archives professions other than ‘Archivist’. Caroline’s career has included working in local authority archives, teaching on the Archive Administration course in Liverpool, publishing original work, creating competency frameworks, and being President of the ARA. The Archive & Records Association do encourage members from conservation too. I have not had any experience in conservation, so Emily Hick‘s article provided a great introduction into her career path working with different materials.

Erin Lee‘s article provides an example of moving up the archive career ladder at The National Theatre. Erin talks about her first experience as an Archive Assistant with the NT, moving on to a newly-created position as Archive Manager, and then stepping up to her current role as Archivist. This shows that there are places where there could be the opportunity to progress and take on new responsibilities. I have occasionally heard that the career progression ladder for archivists can be very short, however. This can be true if you are the sole archivist in an organisation, but as Erin has shown, some organisations do have room for career progression. And as the articles mentioned in the paragraph above show, there are other strings that you can add to your archive bow, such as publishing your original work, becoming involved with professional organisations, and teaching on an archival course.

This has just been a brief delve into the ‘How I Started’ articles – I haven’t mentioned all the the articles, but the series so far can be found here. Having these articles to read has been a great way for me to learn about different people’s experiences as information professionals, and in different roles. I have really appreciated the honesty with which these archives have been written, and the ‘How I Started’ series is a great tool for showing how wide and varied archive work can be. I would recommend a good read through the series to any new professionals, and anyone interested in a career in archives, records, conservation, and the information professions in general.

In part two, I’ll take a look back at my own path to becoming an archive professional.


Header image from the BBC.

Contact: learningaboutarchives@gmail.com





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