Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Part 2: Calling All Archivists and Archives Users...What Do Archivists Do?

Yesterday, I put out a call asking community archivists what tasks they do.  Alison commented, "To me, Archives are mostly about Cultural Memory. Preserving & providing access to records that provide information about cultural memory. In my area, they also help teachers to teach about/ through primary documents, which is becoming a larger part of education...What do we do? More then I could list here."

Indeed! We do a lot! That's why I want to add to the two lines given to archives in the library article "What Do Librarians Do" that I mentioned yesterday. Let's make that long list!

This is off the top of my head. What have a left out?

- Arrange personal papers, photographs, media, and other primary source material
- Preserve materials using professional methods that maintain appropriate environmental controls and use appropriate supplies for the safety of collections, prioritizing the needs of items based on condition and budgets
- Manage budgets for preservation, conservation, local history books, exhibit supplies, office supplies, staff
- Determining which materials need outside conservation
- Purchase and manage appropriate secondary source materials to enhance the primary source collections
- Manage institutional records through retention schedules
- Promote local history and historical collections through programming and special events
- Assist genealogists, house historians, engineers, and others interested in local historical  records with research by helping them find appropriate materials and referring them to other appropriate institutions when necessary
- Assist researchers with using equipment
- Supplement the public school and homeschool curriculums by helping teachers teach through primary documents and helping students learn history with original resources
- Promote a sense of awe and provide inspiration by giving users a direct connection to history through original resources.
- Create finding aids that describe specific collections and promote the larger collections of the institution and town
- Develop collections and fill gaps in the documentary record
- Work collaboratively with other local institutions to ensure that history is documented, preserved, and promoted
- Assist local businesses and the town with highlighting the town's history to promote civic pride
- Digitize and microfilm materials to promote access and preservation
- Index digitized collections using metadata and professional standards
- Work with potential donors to appropriately place materials, promoting good relations with the public
- Solicit, train, and manage volunteers and interns to assist with processing collections, shelving local history books, and other non-professional tasks
- Create exhibits that highlight community history and collection strengths
- Work with regional and national organizations that promote archives to promote the value and needs of historical records
- Choose and maintain appropriate electronic equipment including computer equipment, microfilm machines, and the like to enhance preservation and access...

Can you think of more?


  1. First of all:
    We are making history!

  2. Actually, I can :)

    - collect, preserve and provide records and information essential for protecting the rights of individuals and organizations, as well as for promoting transparency of the governance and justice. Quite often they support ongoing business of the organization;
    - appraise and re-appraise the records, and weed out materials that are not worthy of preservation,
    - advise the designers of the recordkeeping/records management systems and the lawmakers on e-records issues,
    - protect classified and confidential information by applying relevant access controls,
    - describe the collections,
    - promote archival science and practice,
    - network with the colleagues and other stakeholders.

    Dr Natasha Khramtsovsky