All of the professional archive qualifications require some form of pre-course experience in an archive. Some organisations offer archive assistant or graduate trainee posts, paid or unpaid, whilst other people gain this experience through volunteering in an archive. The Archives and Records Association (ARA) maintains a list of these organisations, available here. The New Professionals section of the ARA has also produced a useful introduction and the Forum for Archives and Records Management Education and Research (FARMER) has put together some guidance for applicants seeking and organisations providing pre-course work experience. This can be read here.
Jessica Page, Archives and Records Assistant, Boots UK
In September 2012 I began a twelve-month placement at Boots UK Archives and Records Office. The placement offers a valuable insight into how a business uses its archive collection and manages its records. My daily routine involves arranging onsite and offsite retrievals and storage of records. I act as the point of contact for our internal users and our third party storage providers. This involves organising services and answering retention queries. Part of my role is also to support the Data Protection and Subject Access Requests we process. I have conducted a number of Archive independent research projects, including organising Store Anniversaries. The Store Anniversary programme is an annual project, which involves coordinating with stores and PR in order to promote the heritage of the company to customers. Outreach events are a key activity with Boots Archives and I have supported a number of events and displays. The Archives are preparing for a Museum by auditing, photographing and improving the description of each item in the collection. Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying the placement and I have gained a strong appreciation of the commercial and evidential value of Archives to a business.
Grace Pritchard-Woods, Intern, Archives and Special Collections
In September I began working as the new intern with the Archives and Special Collections Service at the University College Falmouth and University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus. Previously, I volunteered for half a day a week at Gloucestershire Archives and worked for two days a week in a school archive. While I was working at the school I enrolled on the distance learning MLitt Archives and Records Management with the University of Dundee Centre for Archive and Information Studies. I applied for the post in the hope that my time here in Cornwall would provide the practical experience I needed to complement the theoretical knowledge I was gaining from the course.
The position is definitely challenging and more than meets my expectations. I am learning a lot very quickly and thoroughly enjoying the experience. During my first two months I have been involved in a variety of activities, including answering enquiries, assisting with the digitisation programme, helping to prepare for teaching sessions, gathering statistics, as well as searching the collections of other local archives for available resources relating to the history of the University Campus with the aim to produce a resource pack. The collections very much reflect the artistic culture of Cornwall, which has allowed me to work with unusual types of collections that I have not previously encountered, as well as observing the different ways in which archives can be used to encourage students to engage with the material. The Cornish Performance Archive includes the company collections of theatre groups WildWorks and Kneehigh, as well as that of the Cornish playwright Nick Darke. These are all used for a variety of teaching sessions and provide a rich resource to inspire and inform the students.
You can read my blog here.
An informal group has been set up for those currently gaining experience either as a paid member of staff or as a volunteer, prior to starting a post-graduate archives qualification, as well as managers of these posts. The group is open to all and its purpose is to enable trainees to meet, share their experiences and start their professional networking. Starting out in the profession can be a hard and sometimes lonely experience – hopefully this group will help with such isolation and also enable trainees to make some friends in the profession! For managers, the group can help them to prepare their trainees for the course and profession, and assist with the standardisation of pre-course experience.
Who is it for?
The group is open to all! Currently we have a range of members, from archive graduate trainees and volunteers to their managers, coming from a wide range of archives, including those in business, museums, special repositories, universities etc.
Meetings are held about every three months and are hosted at members’ organisations.
At the meetings, we have speakers on a variety of topics, trainees giving talks on their roles and there is usually a tour of the archives of the host organisation. Past visits have included:
- Jenny Bunn and Caroline Brown on the post graduate courses at UCL and Dundee, including useful tips to those applying and also for managers as to how they can best prepare their trainees for the courses
- Tours and talks from staff at M&S Company Archive and ITV Rights Management department on one of the regional visits
- Sue Hill Recruitment on how they can help with finding work, CV development and the type of things employees are looking for
- Recent course graduates on how they have found life after the course
Group Discussion Board
List of organisations that offer traineeships and volunteer posts PDF
List of organisations offering the professional qualifications Careers in Archives
Forum for Archives and Records Management Education and Research (FARMER)
The Prospects website and occupational profile Prospects