Career Profile: Archivist
Historical documents such as paper records, artifacts, music, photographs, and video serve to collect the history of a city, country, or culture. These documents are stored in archives belonging to the public, private, and national organizations, which help to keep these documents safe and accessible. If you are interested in studying and preserving parts of history, then working as an archivist might be a great career path.
Archivists work with both physical collections housed in a physical location – such as paper documents, videos or photographs – and electronic collections maintained in computers and databases. Some collections are publicly accessible, such as those housed in museums, educational institutions, and other public sector organizations. Others are privately owned by businesses or organizations, and may not be accessible except by internal personnel or by special request.
Archivists are responsible for the management, processing, storage, and dissemination of information regarding items and documents contained in an archive. The daily activities that archivists do include managing the operation and processes of the archive, such as finding materials, creating and managing cataloguing systems, maintaining computerized databases, and scheduling the review and disposal of materials. Archivists are also responsible for assessing and appraising new archival materials, developing collections, and authenticating documents and multimedia objects.
A large part of an archivist’s job is the conservation and preservation of archived materials to ensure they remain in good condition. They also do a great amount of research into the origins of archived materials, learning about their significance, and developing ways to share this information and make it findable and accessible.
Many archivists work with the public in museums and historical sites, and so must have highly developed interpersonal skills, as well as strong communication skills. They can assist people with searching and finding materials in the archive, setting up viewing processes or equipment, and understanding or sharing the history and importance of materials. They will also be responsible for setting up informational displays.
While much of an archivist’s work will be indoors working seated at a desk or computer, depending on the type of archive there may also be moderate physical requirements for lifting, carrying, standing, and walking.
Becoming an archivist requires at minimum a bachelor’s degree in archival studies from a college or university. Depending on the job and type of archival work, a master’s degree in archival studies, library and information sciences, or history is also required. The average yearly salary for archivists working in Canada is around $49,000, with earnings reaching upwards of $65,000 with a decade or more of experience and specialization.
Historical documents help preserve the rich past of cultures and human civilization. Archivists play a critical role in this. It is an ideal career path if you are interested in history, documentation, and educating others.