As harmless as this question is, it completely feels me with dread. Not in the I-don’t-like-this-question kind of way. More like, how can I fully convey how awesome being an archivist is to me? I know what some of you are thinking. “How can she use “archivist” and “awesome” in the same sentence?”
Well, being an archivist is awesome…to me at least. But, when I’m at family functions or getting together with old friends, this question inevitably comes up. Or, its other variation “What are you going to school to be?” I find that I complicate matters when I list off my degrees. On the one hand, when I say I have a degree in Public History, they think I’m going to be a history teacher. But, when I say I have a degree in Library and Information Science, they now think I’m going to be a librarian.
You see how complicated this gets?
Sometimes, I’ll pause before saying “I’m an archivist” because either two things will happen. First, the innocent inquirer will either smile and mumble a “that’s good” but I can tell they’re confused or they’ll stand there and wait for me to explain myself.
Rather then launch into a long discussion of the larger archival profession or the principles of provenance and original order. I simply say,
“I’m an archivist. I work to preserve historic documents. Y’know like the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights. Someone’s got to make sure those stay around and people, like you, can have access to it.”
You’ll be surprised how many people’s eyes will instantly light up. Because, before this conversation they probably never heard of an archivist. And, I’m pretty sure that when they walk away, they’ll have a newfound respect for the profession. After all, someone has to take care of those documents. They don’t preserve themselves.
Archivist = awesome.