From the Course to the County Archive: The Experiences of Two New Archivists.

Riverside Building Borough Hall, Bedfordshire Archives

Profiled below are the thoughts of two newly qualified archivists, Tom and Natasha, who have within the past year qualified and found work in Bedfordshire’s County Record Office.

Tom

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 which I really enjoyed, because I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it and had a very clear aim of where I wanted to be at the end and what I wanted to be doing. Covid, thankfully proved only a temporary setback and having completed my dissertation in the August of 2021, I found work with Bedford Borough Council within the same month, much to my surprise.

Map Cabinets in Stock Room

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 – for my colleagues it generally seemed to have taken 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, because you never know when those skills will come in handy and what you may be introduced to.

Natasha

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. I started the course whilst working as a Graduate Archive Trainee at a private archive and completed my course over 4 years as a part-time student. Working whilst studying was incredibly helpful in getting hands on experience and putting 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 and I didn’t get the opportunity to implement my learning on different projects like I used to. I began remote volunteering with transcription projects to keep up my palaeography skills and did another diploma in Family History to keep my mind occupied and ready for restarting work.

Map Shelf

A Day in the Life of an Archivist

Getting an archive job during a pandemic was quite a challenge but 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 and the following week I will be helping researchers in the search room. There is never a typical day, and 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 and 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 and potentially undertake my dissertation and turn my Postgraduate Diploma into a Masters.

Rolling Stacks

For more information about the Bedfordshire Archives, you can visit their website: https://bedsarchives.bedford.gov.uk/Archives-Service.aspx