As Valentine’s Day approaches, I can’t help but think about love. Not just romantic love, but also a different kind of love … the love one has for a profession! As you can probably tell by the existence of this blog, I’m a little bit (well, quite a lot) in love with archives. I love archival materials; I love archival practice and theory; I love the archival profession as a community; I love the purpose archivists serve in society; I love how dynamic and interdisciplinary the archival field is, the list goes on and on. Despite this all-encompassing love I have for anything and everything archival, my boyfriend and I recently had a discussion that made me ask myself, “what is my greatest love?”
In preparation for my upcoming master’s graduation in May, I’ve been applying for many different archivist jobs as well as some PhD programs. My boyfriend has been my sounding board as I apply for various opportunities and interview for positions. One day he asked, “What matters to you most when taking an opportunity in archives—the archival collections you’ll be working with or simply archival practice itself?” His question made me think. Which is the greater love? Is it the love of a specific collection or the general love of preserving history and making it available? If the greater love is the former, the most important aspect of any new opportunity is the subject matter I’ll be dealing with. If the greater love is the latter, the subject matter is arbitrary; my fulfillment comes from protecting history—regardless of what it is—and making it accessible to others for years to come.
So again, I ask myself, “which is the greater love?” Well, I could go with the preferred phrase of archivists and say, “it depends.” However, in this case, I don’t think it does. I can honestly say that my greater love is for archival practice—collecting, preserving, and making history available to users. I love protecting the past, and I love helping people use records of the past to fulfill various purposes. Yes, it’s always wonderful when a collection is particularly exciting to me because it makes some of the tedious parts of being an archivist much more bearable. However, I know that deep down, I am meant to be an archivist, and this calling is not dependent upon which collection I happen to be working with at the time. In fact, I have a feeling my archival career will lead me to and through many different collections, subject areas, and environments throughout my lifetime. I’m just along for the ride!
This is my assessment of what drives me as an archivist and an information studies professional. Other archivists may feel the opposite way, and that is totally okay. Let’s talk about it. What is your greatest love when it comes to being an archivist? What keeps you motivated? What keeps your archival heart beating when you go to work/school every day?
I’d love to hear from everyone on this one!
“And, on many of these occasions, I have been taken aback by the awe that the ordinary practice of archival techniques can inspire nonarchivists. Part science, part art, and—when done properly—part showmanship, our ability to quickly understand and evaluate the record…. So too is our ability to satisfy research inquiries by applying our complex understandings of how and why the historical record is created. Perhaps in modesty, or perhaps because we devalue the everyday and familiar, we fail too often to appreciate our unique archival skills and capabilities.”
~John Fleckner, ‘“Dear Mary Jane’: Some Reflections on Being an Archivist”