Frequently Asked Questions…
This post isn’t for clients. This post is for those who want to interview me about how I became an archivist. It’s also for my fellow archivists interested in how I setup my consulting business and how I became a consultant.* Before you reach out with your query, read the previous Q&A’s, blog posts, and other resources I’ve created.
1) Do you have an area of specialization within your field?
I specialize in launching emerging archival programs in institutions that have never had a formal archive before. I also specialize in digital infrastructure (DAMS, CMS, etc) for publishing collection content online in a sustainable and pragmatic fashion. Finally, I specialize in grant acquisition strategy — because so many of us need outside money to fund our work. A lot of my clients don’t have a ton of resources or dedicated staff so I have to build them something they can effectively maintain. More details here: https://offtherecord.archivists.org/2018/06/04/guest-post-becoming-an-archives-consultant/.
2) How did you get into your field?
I was a History major in undergrad and wanted to stay in history, but not be a teacher. (Seemingly the only known option). My undergrad advisor told me to intern at the Oregon Historical Society (museum) where I interned in several departments and found out there was this magical place — the archives. I wanted a job where I could play with history all day and not limit myself by specializing, so the archives was the perfect place. More details available here:
3) What are some likes and dislikes about your work?
I dislike how archivists as a collective can get bogged down in perfectionism and adhering to past practices. Yes, standards and methodology are important, but we also have to be practical and meet people where they’re at. It’s important that historical items be out there and used, as opposed to having them languish because we’re chasing after something unattainable.
I like that archivists as a whole are increasingly turning their attention towards community engagement. I feel it is our prime directive as archivists to preserve and make history accessible. The best way to do that — the most impactful way to do that — is engage our audiences and ensure we’re serving them.
4) What is the most challenging part of this field?
Right now I believe the most challenging part of the field is articulating our value. We’ve always had a problem with general audiences not knowing what we do. Worse, is people who kind of know what we do and don’t value the work. We have a battle before us. You can read more of my thoughts here: https://archivesaware.archivists.org/2018/12/19/responses-and-retrospectives-rachael-woody-on-the-decline-of-history-majors-and-its-impact-on-archives/.
5) Do you have any major accomplishments within your field?
Starting my own business I consider a major accomplishment. Not only do I have to sell myself, I have to sell the value we bring as archives professionals. I’ve also published a book: A Survivor’s Guide to Museum Grant Writing. I’m also very proud of the work I’ve done at each institution as there are several tangible and intangible benefits I’m leaving them with. I’m mid-career, so I feel like I’m in the planting-seed phase. I’m part of several groups and conversations to help move our profession forward and I look forward to seeing their fruition.
6) Do you have any advice for someone who wants to enter your field?
I do have advice. Specialize in what you are passionate about. Pay attention to what the field *needs* versus what it’s currently offering. This will help set you apart, keep your career exciting, and make you invaluable to the profession. Here are a couple posts with additional detail: http://si-siris.blogspot.com/2010/10/how-can-i-get-job-libraries-archives.html, and http://si-siris.blogspot.com/2011/06/ask-archivist-advice-column.html, and http://inalj.com/?p=2420.
Students, if you still have questions that weren’t already answered here, please email me your remaining questions.
For Archivists Interested in Writing:
I participated on an authors panel for the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Independent Archivists section. Authors Among Us: A Conversation with Three Archivist Authors is available via YouTube.
Interested in Consulting:
Please read this Q&A interview from SAA’s Off the Record blog: https://offtherecord.archivists.org/2018/06/04/guest-post-becoming-an-archives-consultant/. Please also watch this 1-hour webinar I provided for SAA’s Independent Archivists’ section:
*If you still have questions, please email me requesting an NDA to sign. The NDA will need to be signed before any scheduling of a conversation can occur.