The question all Archivists get is

The question all Archivists get is…

Carleen Dekarski Managing archives

So are you like a Librarian?

If you are an archivist already then this question will not surprise you. Often, to avoid a drawn out conversation, my family will simply say yes, much to my dismay. I would imagine also, to the dismay of librarians. Each have important, yet vastly different roles.

If I was to give an elevator pitch about what I do this would be it – “I’m a memory keeper. What we do today we have forgotten about by tomorrow. I make sure we gather, protect and make available, particular types of evidence so in the future you can understand the past clearly”.

To understand the difference lets look at what archives are:

  • original, non current records created by an individual/s, groups, organisation, government
  • generally unpublished, original works, and therefore irreplaceable
  • can be in any format e.g. document, audio and visual files, photograph, social media records, computer disks
  • not all records are archives, therefore;
  • records kept have gone through a process of appraisal, selection, arrangement and description, the result is a collection kept for permanent preservation because of particular value/s identified e.g. evidential, cultural, historical….
  • due to rarity, archives are not able to physically be checked out like a library and must either be visited or digitised (where possible) for those wishing to access them
  • access may vary given a number of issues such as donor conditions, confidentiality…
  • understanding and maintaining the provenance of records (who created them/where/when) and the original order they were used in is imperative to the archive material
  • therefore, finding aids are very important tools to be able to understand the archive collection and which records might hold what you are looking for

So now that you know (in brief) what archives are, what does an Archivist do? Often people assume we sit in a dark, dusty room looking through brittle and yellowing pages of books. This is far from the truth.

I will go in to depth in a following article on how a day really looks like for me but in the meantime to understand in full the roles an Archivist undertakes I suggest a read of this blog post “What do archivists do all day?” written by Archivist Samantha Thomson on the PAMA website (Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives).

The article provides an excellent outline of the daily tasks of an Archivist. It steps the reader through the key principles that are undertaken when dealing with collections and our customers. Whether you are dealing with government, religious, school, personal or other records the core principles remain the same. I thought it was a nice sampler to what happens in my world. Enjoy.

Recognition: Question mark by Evan Dennis, licensed under Creative Commons Zero, published with thanks from

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