Starting an Archives (Society of American Archivists)

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The first had to do with celebrating anniversaries using archival materials. One archive used archival material and theatrical readings to bring interest to their annual friends of the archives meeting dinner. Still a work in progress, EaaSI would allow users to open old software programs and use them in an emulated operating system. Nine speakers from varying backgrounds gave their brief thoughts on digitization as preservation, and, in doing so, displayed the many nuances of this ongoing discussion.

For audiovisual digitization, Snowden Becker discussed the idea of transferring analog materials into digital content and the often subsequent loss of original boxes, sleeves, leaders, etc. The idea that digitization is preservation for audiovisual materials is a commonly accepted position, but this discussion made me reconsider my own viewpoint on this topic.

Machines will not be replacing archivists but can assist in processing born-digital archival materials and backlogs that many archives face. These technologies can apply in the areas of copying materials and item and format recognition, as well as assisting in prioritizing some projects. There also is the potential of viewing collections in new ways that humans are unable to do easily. When we feel like frauds, our archivist colleagues dispel that falesy and remind us of our worth.

When I pushed my shy, naive self to network with colleagues after graduating all those years ago, I thought the point was to gain employment. For archivists, jobs can be few and far between. We may not choose to be lone arrangers but nonetheless find ourselves in that position at some point in our career. As if advocating for our work is not hard enough, doing so alone can feel near impossible.

But having a professional community to lean on helps alleviate some of these challenges and provides a sense of connectedness. Belonging to a community is such an essential element of life outside of work, why not do more to establish them within our careers? If we can be advocates for our colleagues, those outside of the profession will begin to know our value too.

Genna would like to send special thanks to Caitlin Birch, Jaimie Fritz, and Olivia Mandica-Hart for reading and commenting on this piece, and to Suzy Morgan and everyone else who gave feedback during the initial data collection phase. At the university where I currently work, there is a small but enthusiastic contingent of undergraduate students in the cultural and historic preservation and history majors interested in pursuing library school. As I am asked to give a picture of the archives profession to newly-declared majors every year, I think of the inadequate job market and question whether I am advising them well.

Compiling this data required making decisions about what constituted an archives job. I included any position shared through archivist professional venues, even if it was unclear whether most archival training would be appropriate to the position. I included museum positions that related to collections care, digital collections, or other skill sets that overlap with archives training but not positions unrelated to archives work, such as development. I included corporate positions as well as public, academic, government, or non-profit positions. A position needed to dedicate at least half of its time to archival work to be included.

Because I began this project after many job postings had expired, some information is missing. Future research would be more effective if job posting information were to be downloaded and recorded as it is posted, so that original postings can serve as reference points and more information can be gathered before the removal of inactive positions from job boards.

This study is a snapshot of a year in the New England archives profession, allowing for some broad conclusions rather than a statistically significant analysis. Undoubtedly, I have still missed a few, but positions I hope to draw useful conclusions from the data. The survey found full-time archives jobs at institutions within the six New England states posted between April 1, and April 1, Most of the job postings did not include any salary information at all, whether a flat number, a grade, or a range.

Of the total positions, posting information was insufficient in 30 of them and it was impossible to tell whether salary information had originally been present. Of the remaining 85 positions, 47 If we exclude Harvard and Yale, the two largest employers in this survey, then the salary information becomes paltry — only 17 positions at other institutions included salary information. There was not enough information on salary amounts to conclude anything substantial. The state with the highest number of postings was Massachusetts with 73 Connecticut had 25 Vermont and Maine each had three postings 2.

The permanency of 11 positions was unclear.

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Of the remaining positions, 72 The rest were temporary positions, with terms ranging from two months to five years but mostly appointments lasting less than two years. Of the remaining 90, 61 Twenty-nine positions For context, I was interested in finding out how many new archivists there were every year.

The Simmons University Office of Institutional Research provided information regarding the number of graduates with the archives management concentration. I myself am a graduate of this program. For the past ten years, the annual number of Simmons archives graduates has more than doubled, from 56 in to in The latest figure for archives degrees awarded in academic year is 38, but this does not include the spring semester.

The increase has not been steady, with a drop between and , but the program has consistently grown since then. The online program began awarding degrees in , and represents a substantial minority of those degrees. All told, professionals have graduated with archives degrees from Simmons in the past decade. It does not seem that the job market in New England is supporting the influx of new graduates, or emerging and seasoned professionals.

The exponential annual increase of digital information alone means, in my view, that society needs more archivists. A separate but related conversation with current archivists would surely conclude that people in this profession are overworked and understaffed, with job responsibilities ranging from processing to digitization to records management to teaching to digital preservation. Lack of transparency about archivist salaries allows institutions to avoid providing competitive compensation, and can generate huge wastes of time for candidates and hiring committees when applicants do not know whether a position will compensate them adequately.

More regional and national organizations, not to mention library schools, could make similar statements and take action to support its communities of learners and professionals. The frequency of temporary and project postings demonstrates how dependent the archives profession is on external or limited funding. It is alarming that nearly a third of the archives positions posted last year were term-limited. I focused on full-time positions because I wanted to get a grasp on the types of positions people graduating from archives programs ideally want — secure, full-time, in a relevant field.

Yet even this set of supposedly ideal positions show that job insecurity prevails. Professional organizations have a role to play in supporting the creation of stable, benefited, appropriately-compensated positions for its members. A trend of precarious stewardship threatens archival collections, to say nothing of the impact on individuals struggling for economic stability.

Yet the inadequate number of new positions, combined with the trends of salary secrecy and contingent positions, seem to demonstrate that archives are not valued as core functions necessitating ongoing operational funding within an organization. If the collections that archivists steward have enduring value to their institutions, then the staff should experience similar value and respect for their work.

As this committee year comes to an end, I have begun thinking about the issues that our committee and SAA at large will be facing in the coming years. While questions of accessibility and preservation will still be looming far into the future, the biggest problem our profession will face in the years to come is retention. How does our field retain talented and enthusiastic young archivists when their career prospects are so uncertain? Job applicants soon discover that jobs are hard to come by and the ones that are available are either part-time or contract gigs.

Even though securing one these positions feels like a success the reality of the position soon becomes evident.

The Archives Leadership Institute

You might have a job now but positions is temporary and you need to start applying for new positions immediately. Is it right to allow people to enter a field that has such limited options? When discussing this dilemma, people have suggested that universities should limit the amount of students allowed to enter archival studies tracks.


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However, what we do know is that limiting entry into the field creates a whole new set of problems. Unless universities develop a way to do blind admissions, these criteria could very well reinforce biases that already exist within the profession and prevent underrepresented groups from being able to enter the profession. Another issue with limiting entry into archival studies programs is that it just deals with the surface issue of our profession.

While there will be less people fighting and competing for jobs, there is no guarantee that more permanent, full-time jobs will be created or that higher wages will be offered. Unless we can convince people that the work we do is important and contributes something positive to the world, no one will want to create jobs for us.

Archival Organizations

In order for our profession to thrive and grow, we need others to see our value and desire to employ us so that archivists can stay in the field rather than having to leave and find other work to support themselves. There is a large focus on temporary and other project-based work.


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  • And, on the positive side, there is professional movement against all of this. Should I really be encouraging more people to come into a profession with a fairly limited market for jobs that are also generally underpaid? Should we try to tamp down on temporary jobs? Does that mean that — overall — even fewer people will be employed? Will it be even harder for recent graduates to get a foot in the door? Will more records go unprocessed and hidden?

    Should we advocate for more visibility and better funding? If we are paid better for our work, where does that money come from? Budgets always have trade-offs. Do I get more money but less staff? Does higher pay necessitate higher workload and stress level? Participants selected as the Cohort will be notified by the end of January The Institute will be held at Berea College for a final year in The Institute will be held June 17 - 23, The program will begin Sunday evening and finish by noon on the following Saturday.

    Participants must attend the entire Institute.

    Wrong document context!

    Conducted by Dr. The current iteration of the Archives Leadership Institute is funded through The current ALI staff and steering committee are committed to the on-going success of ALI, but we do not plan to submit a proposal this cycle.

    If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact ALI Director, Rachel Vagts at director archivesleadershipinstitute. In that role she curates collections documenting 19th and 20th century American history, including the Kodak Historical Collection , Susan B. Anthony Papers, and Frederick Douglass Papers.

    In , ACRL published a book that Birrell co-edited with her colleague that explores the benefits and challenges of cross-departmental collaborations, titled: Collaborating for Impact: Exploring Special Collections Partnerships. In her role at The Benson, she manages the collecting, processing, preservation, and accessibility of the Benson Special Collections both analog and digital as well as the staff that make this possible.

    Her area of specialization is German Phenomenology and Ethics. He currently services as director and managing editor of the Journal of Western Archives.

    His research interests include the development of primary source literacy skills, the history of the archival profession in Utah, managing with digital records, and business process management as applied to archives. Gabrielle M. She earned her M. She also holds a B. Dudley has co-authored two professional articles on instruction and was the co-organizer of the "Teaching with Primary Sources" pre-conference workshop at the Society of American Archivist Annual Meeting.