The coolest job in the world.

So it’s probably not a good sign when Mariecris keeps making up excuses to check on or get a voice response from me (Arlene) to make sure I haven’t passed out on my keyboard.  She’s also been following me around a lot, I think she’s concerned I might get lost in the stacks.  It’s possible: I’m pretty zoned out since yesterday was a very long day (4:30 am-11:30 pm which included 8 hours driving time and 8 hours of packing records).  This might help explain the lack of a Tuesday entry in the blog.

But back to the title subject.  I sometimes wonder how archival work gets a rep as boring, dull, staid, or any of those other adjectives that suggest what archivists do is about as interesting as watching coffee turn cold.  (My apologies to any professional coffee watchers: no offense meant.  I’m sure your chosen profession has its advantages.  I await my invitation to your next conference so you can educate me.)

Anyway, I spent a good portion of my non-driving yesterday boxing up documents and such from a doctor and his wife who were long time Alaskans.  As I worked, I talked with one of the couple’s nieces.  She was asking lots of questions about what it is archivists do (not an uncommon question) and how we get collections, and what types of collections we get, and who might use them, and why, and all those sorts of questions that archivists eventually get asked.  At some point in the day she said to me that she’d never really thought about it before, but that I have a fascinating job.  This is also not an uncommon reaction.

Every day is something new.  Yesterday was packing up the personal papers of a doctor and state legislator and his wife in front of a huge window overlooking Cook Inlet and Mt. Iliamna.  The doctor and his wife are no longer with us, but they were both meticulous records keepers and so they’ll leave a legacy to Alaskans and the world in written and photographic form about the places they went, the people they met, the things they did.  Last Thursday I sat down with a Coast Guard veteran who went through some photograph albums with me from his time on a buoy tender in the Aleutians from 1949 to 1951: he made me laugh with all of his great stories about his friends depicted in the photographs.  Again, many of them are no longer with us, but the photographs and stories and memories are a legacy they have left behind.  Today I’ll be rehousing some images and documents from Colonel Mears who headed up the building of the Alaska Railroad.  Today Mariecris worked with an artist who is looking for historic Alaskan photographs to use in her work.  Tomorrow we’re being visited by a class of 2nd-graders who are coming to visit us and learn about what it is we do and have.

So is being an archivist the coolest job in the world?  Tough to say.  I’m kind of biased, obviously.  But I think we’ve got a case for it, an occasional 19-hour-day notwithstanding.  And if there’s no blog entry tomorrow, somebody come looking for me please?  The stacks might be a good place to start.

About aschmuland

I'm head of Archives & Special Collections at the Consortium Library. I've been with A&SC since 2002, first as reference archivist, now as head of the department.

One Comment

  1. Being an archivist is the coolest job in the world, and I’m not biased… seriously! And it definitely is much ‘cooler’ to be in archivist in Alaska. Another fun thing I’m doing while working here is getting color slides ready to be posted on the Alaska Digital Archives. I get to look through the McNutt collection and see the most interesting and amazing images! Stay tuned! They’ll be coming Alaska Digital Archives soon 🙂

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