Monday, November 22, 2010

Why you shouldn't become an archivist

There are lots of reasons to become an archivist: a passion for ensuring that the past is adequately documented, a desire to help people find information they need and want, and -- for those interested in working in government archives -- the need to safeguard the rights of citizens and to hold government accountable for its decisions and actions.

However, there are also some good reasons not to become an archivist, and Rebecca Goldman, who blogs over at Derangement and Description (and whom I got to meet at MARAC a couple of weeks ago--yay!) and Amy Schindler have produced a video that trenchantly and hilariously enumerates them.

As Rebecca cautions, this video doesn't provide the whole picture; it's best thought of as a counterweight to all the pie-in-the-sky pronouncements made by silver-tongued graduate school admissions directors. I nonetheless recommend it to anyone contemplating becoming an archivist, particularly at this economically grim moment in time. (Oh, and by the way, if you watch this video and still want to be an archivist, keep in mind that you'll not only be dealing with the voluminous paper records of the postwar era but also with the burgeoning electronic records of the digital age. Enjoy!)

I also recommend it to archivists who have the immense good fortune of having reasonably secure employment and extensive professional networks. It's all too easy for those of us who have somehow managed to establish ourselves to avoid thinking about how our profession looks to those going from contract job to contract job, working as technicians despite having mad archival knowledge and skills, or getting out of grad school at a time when the job market seems unremittingly wretched.

Finally, I would be remiss if I neglected to point out that this video isn't the only great thing that Rebecca has done lately. During the dozen-odd years I've been an archivist, I've been moved to tears twice by records that I've processed and once by a post on an archivist's blog. Rebecca's contribution to the It Gets Better Project is astounding, and you owe it to yourself to check it out -- and then share it with your friends.

No comments: