Job Postings — Providing a Glimpse into the skills and education required of Archivist (plus my thoughts and bonus acronym vocabulary links!)

I have chosen to analyze a variety of archive positions that are similar in that involve positions that are tasked with organizing art collections.  The one except is a collection of propaganda documents at Brown University but the position contained enough similarities to be included with the other job postings I reviewed.  The positions I analyzed ranged from museum to studio archive collections and from entry level to a more managerial position.  Probably the most interesting part of exploring archival job postings was the variety in the kinds of organizations and their various collections that require an archivist.

Education, experience and skills:    

All positions advertised in the job postings required a Master’s degree from an ALA-accredited program in library and information science.  The postings also listed degree concentrations and coursework such as archives administration, special collections, records management, and archival management as desired qualifications. Both the Project Archivist position at The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Archivists/Records Manager the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art preferred that their applicants be certified archivists or records managers.  A few of the positions also mentioned that an additional degree in history or knowledge of art history was preferred although not required which is reasonable given the types of collections.

Not all of the job advertisement stated the required years of experienced needed, although it is implied by such requirements as supervising other staff or having to demonstrate certain skills, the range in experience between the various positions was equal to roughly 2-5 years.  3-5 years seemed to be a popular range for experience required in the postings I chose and in other job postings I saw.  Perhaps that suggests a wealth of mid-level positions within the archive field?  The Brown University Project Archivist specified the least amount of experience needed by only requiring a, “..minimum of two years’ experience arranging and describing archival records, while the Librarian 3 or Senior Archivist  position at Yale required the most amount of experience by requiring that it’s applicants have, “..five years of professional experience in a major archival or manuscript repository, including substantive management, planning, and supervisory responsibility.”  It is interesting to note that in the positions I examined management of people as well as information proved an important requirement.  The lower level positions required management and training of volunteers or interns while higher level positions asked that candidates manage small teams.

Examining the job postings provided a lot of insight into the practical and implicit skills required of archival and records management professionals.  If you are going to work in an archive you should show have knowledge of or be able to demonstrate an ability to use description standards and vocabularies such as MARC, EAD, AACR2, and LCSH.  One or more of those acronyms was found in every job posting.  Some of the skills listed in all or multiple postings included cataloging collections, creating finding aids for the various collections, providing research assistance whether it involved questions from the general public or within the organization, development of collection or records management policies and maintenance of creation of databases.  Professional archivists are expected to be professionals in every sense of word by exhibiting their creativity, passion, knowledge, and flexibility in successively completing the job at hand.  These qualities are implied in the postings by the various tasks, skills, and education requirements listed as requirements for qualified candidates.

Things to ponder?

What I found interesting throughout the job postings was a blurring in some cases and a distinction in others in skills and positions within the various organizations.  The best example of the blurring would be the Yale’s job posting for a Librarian 3.  In the posting the title of Librarian 3 is listed under “University Job Title” while below that the “Posting Position Title” is given as Senior Archivist, YCBA Institutional Archive.  Why call a Senior Archivist a Librarian 3?  Perhaps it is an institutional thing but I found it odd.   A good example of a posting that created a distinction, in this case between records management and archives, appeared in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s posting for an Archivist/Records Manager.  It really seemed to me that they were advertising for two jobs.  They wanted an archivist and a records manager not an Archivist/Records Manager. Even the structure and description of education, responsibilities and minimum qualifications seem to call for two people.  For example, for work experience they ask that the candidate have “minimum 3-5 years’ experience working with institutional records within an RMP with experience establishing an RMP from the ground up,” while also having a “minimum of 2-3 years of administrative experience in an art or museum archives setting.”  It seems they really wanted a records manager but an archivist would do.

Reading through the job postings made we wonder about the role of experience in not only the education of archivists but also in the education of all information professionals.  Experience appears to be king.  What do I mean by that?  What I mean is that even the lowest level job posting I could find required a minimum of 2 years’ experience.  As far as education is concerned, experience, is something that I believe is scarce in our curriculum.  Experience needs to be more integrated with the theory we learn and the tools we are introduced to, such as cataloging language and standards, in our current curriculum.  Theory and history create a good base to expand knowledge and build professionalism but without experience you cannot even get your foot in the door.  Perhaps opportunities for experience are abundant and considered essential in programs that offer more specialized programs in archival and records management?  A serious re-evaluation of experience as an integral part of an information professionals training is needed.

Links to Job Postings:

Metropolitan Museum of Art – Assistant Visual Resource Manager

Baltimore Museum of Art – Project Archivist

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – SFMOMA Archivist/Records Manger

Pixar Animation Studio – Archive Coordinator

Brown University – Project Archivist

Yale University – Librarian 3/Senior Archivist for the Center for British Art

Vocabulary: (I thought I would include hyperlinks to definitions for the acronyms found in the job postings I reviewed.  Some or all may be familiar but I will admit I did not know all of them.)

AAT     AACR2     APPM     DACS     EAC     EAD     MARC     TMS  


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