What is an Archivist?

what is an archivist

Individuals who have a history degree are eligible for career opportunities as an archivist. Competition for these jobs can be intense, but those who are able to break into the field often find enjoyment as they work with some of the most valued pieces of information from the past.

Job Duties

Archivists perform a variety of duties in relation to the documents that they work with that have historical significance. These documents include:

  • electronic records
  • manuscripts
  • websites
  • electronic records
  • maps
  • photographs
  • audio recordings
  • movies

They verify that the documents are authentic to ensure that it’s truly a valued item. The items are appraised Appraisals are in part based on the document’s:

  • condition
  • completeness of information
  • content
  • the reliability of the information

Steps are taken to preserve the items where factors such as temperature, light exposure, and relative humidity must be taken into account.

Some documents may be at risk of having the information contained in it lost. In these cases, digital and film copies are made to prevent the loss of valued information. Archivists create organizational systems to arrange the documents in a way that they can be easily accessed.

Archivists usually find employment at museums or historical sites. Since these venues are also interested in attracting visitors, archivists must locate and obtain new documents for their collections. Their positions sometimes require leadership abilities. Some supervise workers who help to maintain the documents and who also setup up exhibits at museums and historical sites.

Archivists also create the guidelines and procedures that must be followed when individuals from the public want to access the documents. They must also be comfortable sharing their knowledge. They often conduct programs for the public such as tours and lectures in addition to working with researchers regarding specific documents.

Necessary Qualifications

To become an archivist, you need to earn a history degree or a degree is an area such as:

  • library science
  • political science
  • public administration
  • archival science

You may have better job opportunities if you complete an internship or volunteer to receive training and experience in areas such as:

  • research
  • collection management
  • restoration
  • data management
  • exhibit design

Employment in this field does not typically require certification. However, those choosing to do so can become certified through the Academy of Certified Archivists. This demonstrates to employers that the certified individual has a great amount of knowledge in a specific area.

Employment Opportunities

Archivists can find employment:

  • in museums
  • at historical sites in government agencies
  • with educational service organizations

The median annual salary for archivists is $51,760 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also projects a job growth of 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is  largely due to organizations needing information to be organized, specifically in the electronic record format, and to be easily accessible.

Those with a passion for history often seek out job opportunities that allow them to be involved with historical data. Individuals with a history degree can work as an archivist, which provide the perfect opportunity for those interested in history to earn a living while also pursuing their passion.

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Brenda Rufener
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