Archivist: 'Very nice espresso stand'
I'm a processing archivist in the Archives and Manuscripts Department of the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). My position is responsible for processing the many collections we acquire -- arranging and describing the unique materials in the collection, and producing "finding aids" to assist researches in accessing the information. Our finding aids are all listed on our Web site (Related Sites below). I also assist researchers who want to use our collections, and I help maintain our site.
This is the long answer. When pressed for time, I often answer that I read other people's old mail.
Years in position
I have a BA in history from Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, and an MA in American history, archival and museum studies, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
How did you get your current job?
I did a job search after graduation, and I was willing to relocate to Alaska.
How many hours do you work per week?
I work 40 hours per week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What's the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?
Run a security check of the reading room and stack area, then check e-mail and voice mail.
What time do you have lunch? What do you usually eat?
Noon. I'm very lucky to get a full hour for lunch.
If you're having a good day at work, what is it that makes it good?
Finishing a collection is always satisfying. It means another piece of history is available for study and interpretation. Introducing a researcher to a previously unknown (to them) primary source is also very rewarding.
How much work, if any, do you take home?
Not much. Nothing leaves the archives, so taking a collection home to work on it is out of the question. However, the more complicated processing problems and our Web site are always on my mind.
What does your work contribute to society?
The preservation of historical documents provides the basis for the writing of history.
Do you expect to finish your working life in this career?
I hope so.
If you could have two more careers, what would they be?
Archeologist and forensic pathologist.
What's an unforgivable trait in a colleague?
Failing to find a proper balance between preservation needs and access needs.
What do you do to relieve stress?
I'm always encouraged to go outside and run around the building screaming. Skiing and theater also contribute to my mental well-being.
What have you been reading lately?
"Fortune Is a River : Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli's Magnificent Dream to Change the Course of Florentine History," by Roger D. Masters (Simon & Schuster, 1998). "Fashion Means Your Fur Hat Is Dead : A Guide to Good Manners and Social Survival in Alaska," by Mike Doogan (Epicenter Press, 1996).
When you have one of those days on which you don't think you can face the job again, what is it that gets you out the door in the morning and off to work?
I just remind myself of why I love my job, and remember that my building has a very nice espresso stand.
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