Career Development

What Does an Archivist Do?

Find out what an archivist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an archivist.

Archivists are responsible for preserving and organizing historical records so that future generations can access them. They commonly work with paper, digital, audio, video, and other types of media to ensure that these materials are properly organized, stored, and protected.

Archivists may also be tasked with providing information about the materials they’re working with to researchers or historians who visit their archives. This might include helping them find specific documents or explaining how to use the archive’s resources in general.

Archivist Job Duties

Archivists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Performing research to locate and acquire new materials for the archives
  • Organizing and maintaining archives through cataloging, appraising, storing and retrieving records
  • Installing and maintaining computer hardware and software in order to preserve digital records
  • Maintaining an inventory of the materials in the archives, including scanning or photographing selected materials for online access
  • Training staff members in proper archival practices and procedures such as appraisal, arrangement and description of materials
  • Conducting historical research to locate previously unreported information about a topic or issue
  • Conducting oral histories of individuals or groups who have experienced significant historical events or transformations in order to capture memories that may be lost over time
  • Applying knowledge of library science principles to select, organize, preserve, and provide access to information in print and electronic formats
  • Writing articles, papers, or books about topics in the field of archives for scholarly publication or public consumption

Archivist Salary & Outlook

Archivists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of organization they work for.

  • Median Annual Salary: $58,000 ($27.88/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of archivists is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

As people continue to use digital technology, they will also need to preserve and organize their old records in a digital format. In addition, the need to preserve historical documents and artifacts will continue because many of them are fragile and subject to damage.

Archivist Job Requirements

There are a number of qualifications required to obtain a position as an archivist. They include:

Education: Archivists need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in library science or a related field. Many employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in library science. Courses in archival science include archival theory, preservation, records management, collection development and organization, and information technology.

Training & Experience: Archivists receive most of their training through formal education, but they may also receive on-the-job training to learn the specific processes and procedures of their employer.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications allow you to prove your skills and qualifications to current and potential employers. Archivists can earn certifications to gain more theoretical knowledge of their responsibilities, test their professional skills and further advance their career.

Archivist Skills

Archivists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Organization: Archivists use organization skills to keep records in order and maintain a filing system. They also use organization skills to create storage solutions for records that aren’t currently in use. This includes identifying which records are most important to keep and which ones can be discarded.

Communication: Archivists use communication skills to interact with clients, colleagues and other professionals. They also use these skills to explain complex information to clients and explain the importance of their work. Communication skills are also important for collaborating with other professionals to find information and create new records.

Detail-oriented: As an archivist, you need to be detail-oriented to ensure that you capture all the information in the records you’re working with. This can include information on the front and back of a document, information in the margins and information on any attached documents. Being detail-oriented can help you ensure that you don’t miss any information that’s important to the organization.

Technology skills: Archivists use technology to create digital records and to store physical records. They need to understand the technology they use and how to troubleshoot any issues that arise. They also need to know how to use the software and hardware that their organizations use to create and store records.

Research: Archivists use research skills to find information about the materials they’re working with. They may need to find information about the organization’s history, the history of the documents they’re working with or the history of the information they’re writing about. This skill can also help them find information about the best way to store and organize the materials.

Archivist Work Environment

Archivists work in a variety of settings, including libraries, museums, historical societies, government agencies, and corporations. They may work in climate-controlled rooms to preserve delicate materials or in standard office environments. Most archivists work full time during regular business hours, although they may occasionally work evenings or weekends to attend meetings or events or to meet deadlines. Some archivists travel to conduct research or to attend conferences.

Archivist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how archivists work. Archivists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Digitalization of Records

The digitalization of records is a trend that is quickly changing the archival industry. As more and more records are digitized, archivists will need to find new ways to preserve these records.

This trend also means that archivists will need to be familiar with digital preservation techniques. They will also need to be able to manage large amounts of data efficiently and effectively.

More Collaboration Between Libraries and Archives

Libraries and archives have traditionally been separate institutions, but this is beginning to change as they both realize the benefits of collaboration.

Archivists can take advantage of this trend by developing partnerships with libraries in order to share resources and collaborate on projects. This can lead to a better overall experience for patrons, as well as increased visibility for both institutions.

A Greater Focus on Preservation

As technology advances, so does the rate at which information is created. This has led to an increasing focus on preserving information for future generations.

Archivists are in a unique position to capitalize on this trend, as they are responsible for collecting, organizing, and preserving information. By developing skills in data management and digital preservation, archivists can ensure that information is preserved for years to come.

How to Become an Archivist

An archivist career can be very rewarding. It offers the opportunity to work with a variety of materials, including paper, photographs, and digital files. You’ll also have the chance to learn about the history of different organizations and individuals.

To become an archivist, you’ll need a degree in archives or records management. Many colleges and universities offer programs in these fields. Additionally, many archivists complete additional training in conservation techniques and preservation science.

Related: How to Write an Archivist Resume

Advancement Prospects

There are many ways to advance in the field of archival science. One of the best is to obtain an advanced degree, which will enable you to apply for research, teaching, or management positions that are not otherwise open to you. For example, an archivist with a master’s degree may be able to become a head of a department or a chief archivist.

Another way to advance in this field is to specialize in a particular area of archival science. For example, you may become a certified archival appraiser, a certified archival conservator, or a certified archival educator.

Finally, you may also advance in your career by taking on additional responsibilities, such as serving on committees or boards, or by publishing articles or books in the field of archival science.

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