A Day in the Life of... an Archivist

The County Record Office, calm before the storm.
Image courtesy of Heritage & Culture Warwickshire

If you have ever visited an archive service you may get the feeling that we are simply gatekeepers, some more ferocious than others, and that our aim is to put you through a number of hoops before you can see the archives. Let me assure you that we are just as keen to share the collections with you. After all, making records accessible is our aim.

So what do we do all day? There is no such thing as a typical day, really, so here is a flavour of some of the things I might get up to in a day.

Duty Desk:

  • Retrieve pre-ordered documents from the secure storage areas and sort onto the shelves in the Search Room ready for the researchers and/or volunteers.
  • Check and log all the email enquiries received, allocating them for the attention of the relevant people to answer.
  • Help researchers, weigh documents in and out, retrieve microfilms, maps, pamphlets or electoral registers, try to answer researcher’s queries or guide them to the record office’s vast array of resources.

Occasionally there might be a spare moment to answer some of the enquiries received by e-mail.

And when off the Duty Desk:

  • Dealing with those enquires which require original documents to be consulted before a response can be made.
  • Retroconversion. One of my special projects has been working on the process of putting our paper catalogues onto the computerised collections management system. Some are easier than others some demand a look at the original collection to ascertain the exact nature of the documents. This has been undertaken for many years. Over the past two years we have put more than 10,500 items onto the computerised catalogue.
  • Cataloguing. This week I have been working on a collection of rate books which arrived last Autumn from Stratford District Council. I have arranged the catalogue, and am now tackling the physical numbering of the volumes, making sure they are in the right order. This has involved playing a game of giant jenga with the volumes, and means that I won’t need to go to the gym tonight as I now have biceps like Popeye, and have been up and down stepladders enough times for a cardio workout.  I am now relaxing by cataloguing some title deeds relating to Berkswell. There is nothing like a bit of 18th century handwriting of people of ‘weak body but of sound mind’ dealing with the ‘uncertainties of this mortal life…’ to cheer you up. Only two more bundles to go!

Occasionally I get asked by the editor of Our Warwickshire to write a piece for the website but will he ever ask me again…?