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Most every organization, from a county government to a private corporation, creates a lot of documents. Museums and libraries collect photographs, books and public records in order to preserve a sense of community history, while private companies produce memos, plans, and staff records which help them record their history for various purposes. Every single document and photograph collected by these institutions is processed, filed away and retrieved by the archivists on staff in each of their archive departments. Each document, photograph or budget report is a tangible part of our history, which archivists strive to keep.

The archivist's role is varied. It involves examining the document that comes into the library, museum or government office. If it is in a state of disrepair, there is some preservation or restoration work to be done. They may also arrange for the item's contents to be transferred to microfiche or film if it is in danger of disappearing in its original state. Then the archivist writes down any pertinent information regarding the item, it is filed away in storage, and the information is recorded in a database. The archivists can then retrieve the item if they are working on a research project, or if someone else requires the item for research purposes. The items are checked out much like a library, except items kept in archives are not usually allowed to leave the archive.

Senior archivists may do research for clients or companies. This may mean searching outside of the archive for material, including collecting new and pertinent items for their archive.

Some material the archivists work with is secret, and the archivist must know who is allowed to see which items. Therefore, the archivist must be willing to keep secrets, in order to protect not only the person doing the research, but the subjects of the research they are studying.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming an archivist? Archivists need good communication skills, as well as excellent research skills. They are highly organized, and able to work on a number of projects at once. They must be interested in history and the conservation of artifacts and books, as well helping people. Archivists need to be methodical, patient and innovative problem solvers.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Appraise records based on their knowledge of the historical values of records
  • Preserve and repair items, determining whether to keep the original document or transfer it to another medium such as microfiche or film
  • Locate and acquire valuable records
  • Arrange archival records to allow easy access to the information
  • Prepare displays of archival material
  • Archivists spend their time examining, repairing and storing items, and recording the pertinent information into company records, as well as meeting with the public, and looking in the archives for information pertinent to their study or subject matter. They can also do some research on behalf of clients or patrons. They may do some travelling, to other archives, museums, and libraries, as well as to conferences and historical seminars.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Archivists can work in a number of locations, including in offices, storage rooms, warehouses, basements, attics and libraries. They can be found in universities, government archives, private businesses, religious organizations and museums. They will spend time at a desk, as well as a lot of time on their feet, rummaging through shelves, boxes and filing systems, looking for various items. There will be some lifting, as well as some climbing.
  • Most archivists work regular workdays, but some may work weekends and evenings if an important project requires their services. They will work alone, or in small teams, but can also spend quite a bit of time with the public, depending on where they work.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Archivists can go on to work in the public or private sector, with universities, companies, government departments or libraries. They can find work as reference librarians, catalogers, writers, historians or conservators.

  Educational Paths  
In order to become an archivist, a bachelor's, if not also a master's degree in archival studies, history, museum studies, library science or political science is required. It is a good idea to volunteer at a library or archive in order to gain experience.

Prospective archivists may also need to be certified by the Academy of Certified Archivists--their professors will give them more information about certification processes once they are in school.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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