If you’re reading this new blog, odds are you may be involved in Indiana University School of Library and Information Science or interested in attending the program. We represent the IU student chapter of the Society of American Archivists, and we decided to foray into the blogging world to help reach out to more people and discuss the various interests we share about the archives field.
I’m currently a second-year MLS-degree candidate at SLIS, and I’m pursuing the specialization in Archives and Records Management. How did I know that I wanted to go after this particular area? Not everyone knows what specific career direction to take when they arrive at SLIS, but that’s perfectly okay. It is important to check out the different course offerings and see which piques your interest the most. Some of you may already know that you want to work in an archival institution. The best way to find out is to gain experience.
I’ve always had a strong interest in history, but I originally didn’t know how I could make that a part of my career. One day in sophomore year of college, that all changed. I saw National Treasure, the movie with Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger about a few history buffs/treasure hunters put in the position to steal the Declaration of Independence in order to save it. While I watched that movie, I thought Diane Kruger’s character had such a cool job at the National Archives, so I started thinking about it as a potential career for myself.
However, I didn’t know whether this would be the right choice for me, so I had to make the steps to answer that question. I was able to obtain an archival internship position at the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis, MO, the following summer. During my time there, I digitized Civil War-era documents, processed small collections, and assisted the archivists with various duties. I really enjoyed my job there, but I didn’t realize that this would be my ultimate choice until midway through the internship.
The archivists had a team of interns working on a large family collection, and I was to reorganize the calling cards. This family must have saved nearly every single one they received because there were hundreds and hundreds of them. On the third day of perusing through them, I came across General William T. Sherman’s calling card. I couldn’t believe that I was holding a small piece of paper that likely was held by this famous Civil War figure. I thought it was the coolest feeling in the world. At that moment, I realized that this was the right direction for me to go for a career since I wanted to have a job that I could be both successful and happy in.
So, if you’re interested in or thinking about checking out the archives as a potential career choice, it’s important to gain experience. There are different available opportunities such as volunteering or finding a job at an archival repository. Whichever way you choose to do it, experiencing it is the best way to figure out where your career passion lies.
Sarah is a second-year MLS candidate and Treasurer of the IU SAA-SC. She also works as a student processor on the Birch Bayh Senatorial Papers in the Indiana University Modern Political Papers Collection.
Student Perspectives is a regular series in which current SLIS students share their interests and experiences in archives. If you would like to share your archival interests and/or experiences, please contact us at saa.iub<at>gmail<dot>com.