Archives are records of the past.  In local government they may be a collection of public or corporate documents.  'The archives' is also the place where archives are kept.

Archivists are concerned with storing and preserving records of local government matters.  The post is found in all types of authority except for district councils.  In some places archives are kept within the corporate services directorate.

Work Environment
Much of the work takes place in office or library environments.  Archive stores may be located in basements or in modern rooms.  Some records may be old and dusty. Most posts will have a standard working week of 37 hours with the possibility of occasional weekend/evening duties.  Part-time contracts are also possible as well as flexible working arrangements.

Daily Activities
Archives are kept permanently to preserve the past and to allow others to discover it. They can be in the form of files, papers, books, photographs, drawings, maps, films, video and audio tapes.  On a daily basis, archivists are involved with methods of classification - indexing, cataloguing and listing this material so that staff and members of the public are able to find what they want without too much trouble.

You may wish to see how your old railway cottage looked when it was first built in the middle of the 19th century.  Consult the council archiveordnance survey maps, drawings and photographs and you might be able to find out.  But everything cannot be stored, so archivists must select items that are suitable forpreservation.  They supervise the running of the public search room and operation of the Records Office, interpreting documents forarchive users.

Some archivists are expected to inspect archives on site (in old buildings and churches, forexample)orbe involved in talks and exhibitions.  Material can be heavy, unwieldy, sometimes dirty and covered in mould.

The work also involves managing budgets and working with other staff, answering queries and helping the public to use collections and access information.  This would typically include people working on exhibitions, presentations and media work (newspaper articles, TV and radio programmes).

Skills & Interests
Archive administrators must be:

  • committed to heritage;
  • interested in IT and related technology;
  • able to explain complex ideas in simple terms;
  • good team players;
  • able to manage budgets;
  • logical thinkers (for sorting activities);
  • sensitive to the confidential nature of some material.

Entry Requirements
The minimum requirement is a postgraduate diploma in archive studies.  Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires a good first degree and for some a knowledge of Latin and/or French.  Most archivists are history graduates but any subject may be acceptable.

Entry to Archive Studies postgraduate courses is very competitive.  Applicants with at least one year of relevant experience are more likely to be accepted.  Entry requirements for degree courses are often relaxed for mature applicants.  Access courses are a common way in to degree courses.

A few employers recruit graduates and provide in-service training through the Society of Archivists' own diploma course.  Many larger archives employ staff to assist with their services.  NVQs are now available and some universities offer a professional certification in archive studies.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
Archive administration is a small, specialist profession.  Most archivists are employed by local government, central government (national archives and museums, the British Library and National Libraries of Scotland andWales), and specialist bodies such as the National Maritime Museum and universities.  Some business organizations have their own repositories of mainly modern records, and may employ specialist staff. Archivists can also work for charitable bodies.  Promotion depends on the employer.  Some, such as local and central government, offer a formal career ladder, which allows progression to seniormanagement posts.  It may be necessary to move to gain access to higher level jobs.  Opportunities with small employers are likely to be limited.

Further Information & Services
Archives & Records Association 
Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals 
The Museums Association

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( in your local library, careers officeor school careers library.

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