The history of all nations, great or small, has grown from ancient civilization ranging from a few hundreds to thousands of years. The information is stored in the form of ancient manuscripts, records, inscriptions, documents and more recently in computer data chips. These unique records are preserved and restored. They help us to understand the history, culture or evidence of a particular region or society. The person who keeps and maintains these records is called an Archivist.
The archivist handles these records in a proper manner and procures them from the vast collection required in the future. This profession has gained ground in the recent past as things are changing very fast. This has become a rewarding and promising career for those of us who have a flair and desire to know and preserve our history. As the work of an Archivist can affect the present and future of generations to come, thus a great importance is attached to the job.
What are Archival records or Archives?
Every place and person has a history which is embedded in thousands of manuscripts, records, inscriptions, documents, etc. These records are unique and are scientifically preserved and restored. They help us to understand the history of a particular region, society or person. They provide evidence for legal purposes, ownership rights, demonstrate how organizations operate and lifestyles of people etc. These records are called Archival Records or Archives.
In short Archives or the Archival Record is the storehouse of historical records/documents and the physical places where they are located. They consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on the ground of their enduring cultural, historical or evidentiary value.
Archives consist of three elements namely:
Historical Record Collections
These include a group of records like papers, documents, files, photographs, books, papers, letters, maps, video recordings, plans, sound recordings etc.
Repositories (Physical facilities)
Here archives refer to a physical location or a facility like building where archives are located.
Archives may also mean an organization, program or an agency that is responsible for managing and preserving historical records.
People from different professions like lawyers, scholars, genealogists, historians, biographers, independent writers, students, filmmakers, and many others refer to these archives in their work.
What is Archival Science?
Archival Science is the study and practice of organizing, preserving, and providing access to information and access to information and materials in archives.
Who is an Archivist?
An Archivist is a professional who assesses, collects, organizes, preserves, maintains, and provides access to these records and archives that have long term value. His job is to see that these records that consist of a variety of forms that includes letters, dairies, logs, personal documents, government documents, sound and/or picture recordings, digital files or other physical objects are well maintained.
Thus, an archivist keeps records that have enduring value as reliable memories of the past, and they help people find and understand the information they need in these records.
The theory and scholarly works underpinning archives practices is called archival science. Archival science teaches archivists to determine what records have enduring value. The records are to be selected to justify the costs of storage and preservation plus the labor-intensive expenses of arrangement, description and reference service.
Duties and Responsibilities of an Archivist
The duty of an Archivist includes acquiring and appraising new collections, arranging and describing records, providing reference service, and providing reference service, and preserving materials.
He must apply two important principles while arranging records. These are
- Original Order
Provenance refers to the creation of records, Here the different records are kept separately to maintain context. Many entities create records, including governments, businesses, universities, and Individuals.
Original order is applied by keeping records in their order as established and maintained by the creators.
Both are closely related to the concept of respect des fonds, which states that records from one corporate body should not be mixed with records from another.
Also, there are two aspects to arrangement:
He process the records physically by placing them in acid-free folders and boxes to ensure their long-term survival. They also process the records intellectually, by determining the content of the records, how they are organized, and what if any finding aids need to be created.
Both these aspects follow the principle of original order.
An Archivists’ work encompasses a range of ethical decisions that may be thought of as falling into three broad and intertwined areas.
- Legal requirement
- Accountability to society
He is guided by the code of ethics while negotiating the ethical conflicts in their work. The International Council of Archives adopted the code of ethics in 1996.
A brief history
The word ‘archive’ is derived from a Greek word “Arkheia” meaning public office or town hall meaning public office or town hall in which important documents or files are kept under the authority of “Archon”, a title referred to a specific public office.
Jacob von Rammingen manuals of year 1571 and Baldassarre Bonifacio’s De Archives libris singularis of 1632 were the first predecessors of archival science.
The French archivist Gabriel Richou published the first western text on archival theory, named “Traite’ theorique et pratique des archives publiques “(Treaty of Theory and Practice of the Public Archives) in which he systemized the archival theory of the respect des fonds.
In 1898, three Dutch archivists, Samuel Muller, Johan Feith, and Robert Fruin, published the Handleiding Manual voor het ordenen en beschrijven van archieven(Manual of the Arrangement and Description of Archives).
In 1956, T.R. Schellenberg, also known as the “Father of American Archival Appraisal”, published Modern Archives.
In 1972, Ernst Posner published Archives in the Western World. He was referred to as the Dean of American Archivists due to his contribution to the developments of American Archival theory and practice.
Today archivists are taking advantage of Web 2 technologies on the Internet such as blogs,wikis as well as open access and open-source philosophies. Some of them operate public libraries that are accessible on the internet.
The most comprehensive public archive on the internet is Internet Archive which provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications, games, images and games. As of April 2021, the Internet archive holds over 30 million books and texts, 8.9 million movies and TV shows, 646,000 software programs,13,224,000 audio files,3.8 million images, and 580 billion web pages.
What are the Archivist Job Requirements?
As with any other profession one should have to fulfil minimum eligibility conditions to enter an archivist career path. Also, you must have some basic skills in case you want to become one.
Skills required to become an Archivist
Here are few of the basic skills that are required by you as an Archivist
- Good Communication skills
- Analytical and research skills
- An eye on detail
- Problem solving skills
- Organizational ability
- Time management
- Complex problem solving
- Ability to Multitask
Besides the above skills you must also have minimum archivist qualifications.
You must have cleared your high school I.e.; 12th class with a minimum mark of 45% to 50%.
After your high school you must have a graduation or an archivist master’s degree in one or more of the subjects like history, art history, anthropology, archeology, Latin, English literature, public administration, politics, law or economics.
A post-graduation degree in library and information studies, museum, gallery and archives management and information management are essential to get into this field.
You can even go for higher studies (PhD) after undergoing any one of the above-mentioned courses. Or you can opt for a job in various private and public sectors involved in this field.
Some institutes or colleges in India offer a certificate or diploma courses in Archival science. A few of these courses are given below which you can click on to take you to the relevant websites.
Some universities and colleges require entrance scores which the candidates are expected to qualify for the respective entrance exams like DUET, JNUEE, IPU CET etc.
How to apply for the Exam?
First you must visit the official college website and understand the admission procedure of the respective institute or college.
Apply for the exam by filling in the registration form, attaching the necessary documents and paying the entrance exam fees.
Some institutes in India offer certificate and diploma courses in Archival science. These courses help students gain knowledge of basic archival theory, method or practice of appraisal that includes record management, aspects of library and information science management, and historical and research methods.
The School of Archival Studies set up in 1976 is one of the most prestigious archival institutes in India. The institute was established to meet the demand for trained custodians of archival and library wealth.
A few of these courses along with the colleges given below are listed below.
- B.A. Archival Science
- Certificate Course in Archives Management
- Certificate Course in Care and Conservation of Books, Manuscripts and Archives
- Diploma in Archives and Documentation
- Diploma in Archives and Records Management
- M.Phil Archival Science
- P.G. Diploma in Archival Studies and Museology
- Post Graduate Certificate Course in Archives
- Post Graduate Diploma in Archival Science and Manuscriptology
- Post Graduate Diploma in Archival Studies
- Post Graduate Diploma in Archives, Documentation and Management
How can you become an Archivist Abroad?
Many of us in India can pursue courses in Archival science abroad. The top destinations to pursue Archivist courses abroad are the USA, UK and Canada. However, there are other countries also where one can pursue one’s education also.
The Australian Society of Archivists is the professional body for Archivists. It is responsible for the accreditation of various university courses. Archival courses are offered by following universities in Australia.
- Curtin University
- Charles Sturt University
- Monash University
- University of South Australia
A few of the colleges that offer courses in archival science are given below.
- Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM)
- The Federal university of Espírito Santo (UFES)
- Federal Universities of Amazonas (UFAM)
Here is a list of few of the best colleges to pursue archival courses in Canada.
- University of British Columbia
- University of Alberta
- Western University
- University of Manitoba
- McGill University
- Dalhousie University
The oldest Archivist school in France is the ECOL des Chartes, founded in 1821.It offered a diploma in “Archivist-Paleography”. Other universities that offer archival courses are given below.
- University of Angers
- Jean Moulin University, Lyon
- Versailles Saint-Quentin-en Yvelines University
The university offering Archival courses in New Zealand is Victoria University of Wellington. The open polytechnic of New Zealand has undergraduate courses in archives management.
The universities offering courses in Archival science are given below.
- University college, London
- Aberystwyth University
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- University of Glasgow
- University of Liverpool
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- University of Strathclyde
Here are a few of the top colleges in the USA where you can pursue archival courses.
- University of Arizona
- University of North Texas
- Clarion University of Pennsylvania
- Emporia State University
- University of Wisconsin
- The city university of New York
- Indiana University, Bloomington
The Scope of Archivist Career
After completing your graduation in archival studies, you can work as an archivist in the corporate sector handling any kind of data. Today there is great demand for trained and qualified archivists with proficiency in handling and maintaining records and manuscripts of national and historical importance.
You can find many archivist job openings in archival units of many organizations like museums, government agencies, colleges, and universities, industrial and commercial firms, hospitals, historical societies, charities, corporations and various other institutions whose records are valuable to researchers, exhibitors, genealogist, or others who can benefit from these materials.
Those who want to apply in government sectors may be required to pass examinations conducted by the Union Public Service commission or Staff selection commission. National Archives of India which manages all the important documents and archives of the nation offer various job opportunities to deserving candidates. Indian Council for Historical Research also appoints candidates to various posts like Archivists, Assistant Archivists, Director of Archives, Assistant Director of Archives for Records and Publication and Keeper of Records.
Those with PhD degree are offered positions in educational institutes with faculty status.
Even though there are only limited opportunities in the field of archives one can get jobs in other fields like libraries, manuscript repositories, special collections, records management agencies etc.
Job Profile of an Archivist
An Archivist can specialize in their work and be a Film Archivist, Reference Archivist, Photographic Archivist, Appraisal Archivist, Digital Archivist, Manuscript Archivist, Museum Archivist, etc.
Here are a few of the archivist job profiles of an archivist.
Film or motion picture archivist work for large film studios, universities or private individuals and foundations. They are responsible for organizing, preserving and maintaining film collections for a particular group or agency. The archive collection may include a collection of film reels, videotapes, DVDs, CDs, various forms of digitally transferred films, scripts, production schedules, still pictures and any other movie- related media.
Reference archivists are responsible for documentation, recording information in written or electronic/magnetic form and for obtaining information from all relevant sources. They help archive patrons navigate information retrieval systems and provide necessary tools, like finding guides or online searching. The duty of reference archivist is to organize, prepare and preserve archival records, documents and objects, copying records to film, video tape, audiotape, disk or computer formats.
Photographic archivists preserve, organize and archive photographs. Their task is to prepare and arrange their collections for exhibition, communicate with potential donors regarding acquisitions and sometimes publish research findings. Photographic Archivists are employed in museums, libraries, history centres, research institutions, universities, public and private collections and auction houses.
The appraisal archivist is responsible for examining and determining the value of records and other documents. The appraisal decisions are dependent on several factors like records provenance and content, their authenticity and reliability, their order and completeness, their condition and cost to preserve them and their intrinsic value.
How much do an Archivist earn?
The salary packages offered to archivists are largely based on the nature of the employers. As a fresher you can earn a starting salary ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per month. He can earn up to Rs 20,000 per month after gaining experience and qualifications.
You can work as assistant archivist at the entry level of archive jobs in the universities and institutes range from Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month.
The pay scale of an Assistant Archivist(general), for the office of Director General. Archeological Survey of India from Rs 30,000 to Rs35,000. A chief archivist in the Reserve Bank of India earns a starting basic salary of Rs35,000 per month. They are also eligible for dearness allowance, local allowance, house allowance, family allowance, grade allowance as per rules in force from time to time.
Being an Archivist is now considered a rewarding and challenging career for those of you who have flair and desire to understand and preserve our past treasures. Great importance is attached to this as his work can affect the present and the future generation.
In case you have made up a choice to pursue a career as an archivist, you will have to take a lot of hard work and persistence to get the position you desire. You must be eager and have relevant abilities and attitude to be well organized before enrolling in the archivist course. Making right decision and selecting topic and degrees will help you achieve your objective,