Myths Busted in My First Archives Job

Lisa Play was an archival assistant in 2019.

Archives are social places! Talk to your peers!

That isn’t to say the Reading Room isn’t quiet, because it is. However, if you think archives are places where talking doesn’t happen, that’s false. There’s a lot of communication that happens between scholars, archivists, and archival assistants to get the scholars what they need for their research, as well as the archivists and archival assistants educating scholars on how to appropriately handle materials. Similarly, archivists work closely with community partners and donors to expand and share their collections in person and online. It’s not a job for someone looking to avoid people!

Millions of items, itty bitty living space! We can’t know it all!

Archives are densely packed with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of records and objects that researchers can interact with. This means if an archive contains a collection about a person’s life (famous or less so) that includes letters, memorabilia, journals, and other objects, that archivists will likely not have intimate knowledge of each individual article, unless they are particularly special or unique.



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