Profiled below are the thoughts of two newly qualified archivists on their first experiences at Bedfordshire’s County Record Office.Tom and Natasha have within the past year qualified and found work in the archives.
Tom relates his experience in his new archive post
Masters in Archives and Records Management at the University of Liverpool
I officially graduated in February of this year (2022), having deferred my dissertation with the onset of Covid. I studied at Liverpool on their MARM (Masters in Archives and Records Management) Course. The reason I really enjoyed the course was because I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it. I had a very clear aim of where I wanted to get to and what I wanted to be doing. Covid, thankfully proved only a temporary setback. Having completed my dissertation in the August of 2021. Much to my surprise, I found work with Bedford Borough Council within the same month.
The position of Archivist at Bedfordshire County Record Office was the first interview I had for a paid, full time archival position. Up to then I had only volunteered at the Cheshire County Record Office and The King’s School in Chester. I was prepared to wait a bit for work. My colleagues on the other hand took on average a couple of months to find a job within the sector. Perhaps I got lucky, or perhaps they were hampered by having to look for work during the worst of the pandemic.
A Day in the life of an Archivist
I have found that there is not really a ‘typical day’ in Archives. A good case in point would be the flood that happened in records management in my first week on the job, requiring action stations for all key members of staff to salvage as much material as we could. Or the enquiry as to whether we had any records about a man’s prosthetic leg!
Archiving to me, is very much like driving. There is a big difference between doing it for your test to how things really are when you’re out on your own on the open road. For future Archivists, I recommend getting as much experience as possible. Work with different collections, different media, spread yourself as widely as possible. You never know when those skills will come in handy and what you may be introduced to.
Natasha’s first impressions
Archives and Records Management Postgraduate Diploma at the University of Dundee
I studied my qualification in Archives and Records Management PgDip (Postgraduate Diploma) via distance learning at the University of Dundee. It was whilst working as a Graduate Archive Trainee at a private archive that I started the course. I completed my course over 4 years as a part-time student. Working whilst studying was incredibly helpful. I got hands on experience and put into practise what I was learning in each module.
My last year of studying was completed during lockdown and it felt very different. The isolation made studying feel harder. Regrettably I didn’t get the opportunity to implement my learning on different projects like I used to. So I began remote volunteering with transcription projects. This kept up my palaeography skills. I also did another diploma in Family History to keep my mind occupied and ready for restarting work.
A Day in the Life of an Archivist
Getting an archive job during a pandemic was quite a challenge. I was lucky to get a part time position at my local county archives, Bedfordshire Archives. It has been interesting to see the difference in the workings of public and private archives.
I particularly enjoy the outreach side of public archives and getting people involved and interested in what our archive holds and how it can be used.
We work on a rota system, which means I get to involve myself with all aspects of the archive. One week I will be cataloguing, the next week I will be dealing with enquiries. The following week I might be helping researchers in the search room. There is never a typical day. I can go into work expecting to do one thing and end up doing something completely different. That is why I love working in archives!
The records we care for may be from the past, but they affect our present and future. It is always exciting to see them be used in upcoming projects. I officially graduated this month, and I am hoping to continue my further learning by undertaking CPD courses. I hope to undertake my dissertation and turn my Postgraduate Diploma into a Masters.