How to become a Archivist

Archivists analyse and document records. They also plan and perform procedures for the safekeeping of records and historically valuable documents. This may include working closely with written records, files, maps, plans, letters, books, certificates, diaries and registers. Records also include other media such as photographs, films, sound recordings, microfilms and electronic or computer records.

Personal requirements of a Archivist

  • Enthusiasm for research and analysis
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Good liaison and negotiation skills
  • Good organisational skills
  • Able to undertake highly detailed work
  • Interested in the preservation and accurate management of records
  • Aptitude for using computers
  • Able to work independently
  • Interested in history
  • Able to accept responsibility

Education & Training for a Archivist

To become an archivist you usually have to study humanities, social sciences or information management at university, followed by a postgraduate qualification in records management and archives, information studies, information science or information services. To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English and mathematics are normally required. Most universities in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Archivist

Archivists may perform the following tasks:

  • determine how long records need to be kept for accountability and historical purposes by following specified record-keeping requirements
  • ensure records necessary for the ongoing operations of an organisation are identified and preserved
  • survey records held by client agencies and individuals, and arrange for their transfer to archival custody
  • collect records in accordance with an acquisitions policy
  • establish and manage digitisation initiatives to make records more accessible online
  • plan for and carry out digital preservation activities on ‘born digital’ records (materials that originate in digital form)
  • design systems (including hardware, software, procedures and manuals) that enable organisations to create and keep records of their business activities
  • establish and manage administrative systems to document and control records and archives
  • compile guides, inventories and indices to assist referencing and research
  • provide access to records through reading rooms and online archives for research, administrative, legal and other purposes
  • provide advice and information on issues such as copyright and privacy
  • inform users about how to retrieve information from records
  • research publications or prepare exhibitions using archival records
  • promote collections and engage with users through educational programs, exhibitions, publications and the web
  • ensure that the environmental conditions required for the storage and conservation of records are maintained according to scientific methods
  • advise on record management issues.

Employment Opportunities for a Archivist

The two major employers of archivists are the federal and state or territory governments. Archivists are also employed by statutory authorities, local government councils, universities and other tertiary institutions, schools, churches, banks, building societies and some large commercial companies. There are also some opportunities for private consultancy work.

Additional Information
In some cases it may be possible to become an archivist through relevant work experience. Government archives in particular may offer alternative entry schemes and in-house training. The Australian Society of Archivists is the professional organisation for archivists in Australia. Associate membership is open to anyone who supports the aims of the society, including students. Professional membership is available to graduates who have been employed as an archivist in a recognised institution for two years, or to anyone holding a postgraduate professional qualification recognised by the society who has been employed as an archivist for one year. Visit their website for further information.
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