Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Dispatches From The Summer Assistant #8: Archives as a career

Unfortunately I am now nearing the end of my summer post here. It was here that I first became interested in a career in archives. I held this post about five years ago and enjoyed it so much that I returned this summer, while completing my training to become an archivist.

This summer numerous visitors have told me how lucky I am to work here, so I thought that for my final blog post I would say a little about archives as a career. To receive accreditation from the Society of Archivists (Archives and Records Association) requires a masters. This can be done either by distance learning (while working as an archive assistant) or full time study for one year. I chose the latter option and have just submitted my dissertation.

Prior to starting the course, candidates are encouraged to gain experience of working in archives, through either voluntary work or archive assistant posts. There are several archives that offer a one-year paid placement, which is designed to prepare people for the course (I enjoyed the one at Glasgow University Archive Services). Further details regarding the career can be found at We already have a number of volunteers who do very valuable work on a variety of projects.

Every archive is different, so while the course prepares you for the career and teaches you skills you need to work in any archive, archive assistants often have indepth knowledge of specific collections which they have gained through experience.

I have indeed been very lucky to work here and hope I am able to find work in another archive which I shall enjoy as much as I have enjoyed this summer.


  1. Congratulations on submitting your dissertation! I worked in the Orkney Archive for one week and I loved it as well so I can imagine you've had a great summer. Can I ask you a question re accreditation from the Society of Archivists - is this something you see as important? Has it been mentioned to you by other archivists? I am a member of the SoA, or the ARA as it is now, but I've held off on the accreditation as I'm still a bit unsure as to its value in comparison with spending the time on other training courses. I'd be interested to hear other's opinions on this, or experiences of doing the accreditation scheme.

  2. Thank you for your comment. It is definitely a relief to have submitted the dissertation.

    Regarding the importance of accreditation, I have seen a lot of job adverts which list completion or enrollment on an accredited course in their person specification but think experience is valuable. I have enjoyed learning the theoretical issues relating to archives but had already worked in archives. I think it really depends on the type of archive people want to work in and what they enjoy. The course should complement experience rather than being a priority in itself. Just as no two archives are the same, few archivists will follow the same route into the career and it is good that there are different options.


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