Now that the digital and physical exhibits for the De la Torre Papers have been completed and that we’ve enjoyed the well-attended reception, it is time to return all manuscripts and photographs to their appropriate boxes, to be stored in the stacks and await a future researcher request. Such is how days unfold in the archives, a mix of preserving the past and planning for the future, and which got me thinking about what is in store for us, who have recently begun on this path.
Working at Special Collections, MLIS students get to experience various aspects of the archivist’s job. However, while there is much we do not get to officially do, we can watch from the sidelines and learn about the key roles we have to look forward to as me advance in this profession.
Maintaining community relationships and building trust
Much as we may enjoy spending our days processing box after box of historical treasures, one day we’ll be expected to go out into our communities and build trust. Trust, which does not grow overnight or via email and social media interaction alone, takes time, consistency, and genuine care. Trust requires that we reach out to our general public, but also to potential donors and high profile members of our community. As apprentices, we can take advantage of receptions and public events to attentively observe our mentors and supervisors and learn from them.
Collaborating and contributing within, and beyond, our field
As students, many of us have attended conferences, symposiums and workshops. Soon, we will be reaching out to colleagues, to collaborate in projects that will stretch us as well as our field, going beyond being spectators to become presenters and organizers ourselves. Special Collections is quiet this week since three of our archivists are in Portland presenting at the Western Historical Association. Times like these are perfect for engaging mentors and supervisors, to inquire and listen, while it’s still fresh in their minds, about what has worked and what has not, how to handle long-distance collaborations, tips for navigating informal gatherings of peers, and about professional events that match our interests.
Joining the conversation
We learn much by doing, but also by talking things out. Bouncing ideas of one another can give us a sense of the culture in different archives, bring us up-to-speed with issues currently occupying the profession, and connect us with like-minded archivists that could become future collaborators. One way to join the conversation is provided by SAA’s Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable; they hold twitter chats about three times a month (on days that end with 5). You can join by following their twitter account, @Snap_Roundtable, or by monitoring the #snaprt hashtag. To learn more, read this.
Relationships, collaboration, conversations–we may have come into this profession for the artifacts, but ultimately it is people who remain at the heart of the archives. We’d be wise to keep an eye on that.