Why be an Archivist?

Archival work has a long tradition of preserving historical documents for future generations to use and appreciate.  The importance of archival practices is exemplified by those historical documents that helped shape our world today, the U.S. constitution and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Regardless of individual beliefs, these and other documents exist and are preserved for future use because of the efforts by archivists.

In maintaining and growing specific archival collections, Archivists have the opportunity to become more acquainted with the content of these materials from merely doing their job.  In this way, Archivists become experts from the knowledge they gain from acquiring, processing, and maintaining the materials in their collections. By doing so, they add their perspective to historical events through how they decide to organize and describe different collections, which determines its accessibility to future users and researchers.

Archivist can be seen as the gatekeepers to the wisdom stored within historical documents.  They make available information from the past that may not be well known, snapshots of an aspect of society possibly forgotten.  In this way, there is the potential for the rediscovery or the change of our historical perspective.  That is truly exciting!

I was fortunate to take an archives and manuscripts course last semester and it was a fun experience.  This course allowed me to explore and consider the many different aspects of the archival profession.  Also, it gave me a greater appreciation for the archivists I know and for what they deal with on a daily basis.  After taking the course I mentioned, I would definitely be interested in taking another archival course with a focus in digital preservation or metadata.  These and other courses are offered through the SJSU SLIS MARA (Masters of Archives and Records Administration) graduate program.

Are there other aspects of the archival profession you find exciting that you would like to share?

More information on the archival profession can be found at the following sites:

Society of American Archivists (SAA): http://www2.archivists.org/

Society of California Archivists (SCA): http://www.calarchivists.org/

Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook-Archivists: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/archivists.htm

Description and history of the profession, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivist#History_of_the_profession

Article (long) discussing the history of the archival art and it’s development: What is Past is Prologue: A History of Archival Ideas Since 1898, and the Future Paradigm Shift

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