I ask myself this question pretty regularly in the last couple of months. A major factor driving this self-reflection is my work helping with the upcoming exhibit for the Visitor Center. I spent hours on end searching for and looking at historic photographs of Death Valley. And, one day, the light bulb went off.
“You like photographs and other visual materials.”
Ever since that realization, I’ve been trying to decide if its something I want to pursue. By that I mean, actually take some continuing education classes offered through regional archival associations or through the Society of American Archivists.
For most of my graduate career, I kind of side-stepped the whole specialization thing. I didn’t want to become so specialized that I didn’t end up with a job. But more and more, I’m seeing job announcements looking for archivists who have specialized in digital archives. That’s a specialization, right?
I do know that if I pursued this photo archivist thing I don’t want to limit myself to preserving only physical photographs but digital ones as well. After all, digital photos do count and they are equally valuable. A hundred years from now, digital photos will be viewed the same way as historic photos…because I’m sure we’ll have advanced to another way to capture scenes, landscapes, and people.
One thing that remains completely intacted in my “What type of archivist am I?” quest is that in whatever I do I want to promote access, education, and outreach for archival collections. After all, if I’m working hard to save this stuff, someone should be using it. Why else would I do it?
To be a photo archivist
or not to be
That is the question.