What is an Archivist?

An archivist is more than just a custodian of papers or a gatekeeper of history, as impressive as those titles may sound. Archivists are more than librarians on steroids. They are not shut-ins who choose books over people, nor guard dogs who snarl at anyone but the most prestigious of researchers. In all deference to the editors of the Society of American Archivists’ Glossary, they are not merely individuals “responsible for appraising, acquiring, arranging, describing, preserving, and providing access to records of enduring value, according to the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control to protect the materials’ authenticity and context,” or managers of archival repositories, though those are useful descriptions of just a few of the duties archivists may find themselves performing.

London Stever Spring 2017
Photo taken by Dr. John Pankratz, Spring 2017

An archivist is someone who helps others preserve and access their own history. An archivist is an advocate for the past, present, and future. An archivist works with people more than papers. An archivist is also someone with the heavy responsibility of accurately reflecting a period, region, or topic. An archivist decides what records must be preserved, but also those which will not be. An archivist is an activist, researcher, librarian, records manager, politician, host, guardian, preservationist, and more.

Do what you do best…

As a student with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, what I do best is ask questions and absorb every ounce of knowledge I can. My professional interests are varied, ranging from multilingual archives and community outreach to preserving scientific datasets and archiving digital recreations of planetary motion. I invite you to look through the blog on this site to see a sample of the topics I have explored and the skills I have picked up along the way. If you have any suggestions or advice for me, please email me here.

…and link to all the rest

Some sites I highly recommend for archival students and lovers of knowledge alike:

US National Archives Blog

Archives v Digital Historical Representation

ArchivesNext (has not been updated recently, but has a good collection of readings)

Ames Research Center Finding Aids

Open Cover Letters (cover letters from accepted librarians and archivists)