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Archival Science

History of every place is embedded in thousands of manuscripts, records, inscriptions, documents, etc. These unique records scientifically preserved and restored called archival records, help to understand the history of a particular region and society; to provide evidence for legal purposes; to prove ownership and rights; to demonstrate how organizations operate and how people lived etc. Archives alias Archival Records is the store house of historical records/ documents and the physical place they are located. The word 'archive' is derived from the Greek source arkheia ( pl. of arkheion) meaning public office or town hall, in which important official state documents were filed and interpreted under the authority of the Archon (ruler or lord, frequently used as the title of a specific public office). Usually archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on the ground of their enduring cultural, historical or evidentiary value.

The terms museums, archives and libraries may be confusing. All these are cultural institutions, concerned with the collection and preservation of cultural heritage that holds a unique position in any modern state. The three fields work together to document all flavors and varieties of history with a single purpose, but each has its own discipline, own programs of training, and bodies of literature. While Museums focus on historical artifacts and objects; Libraries specializes in managing published materials likes books, magazines etc, and Archives focuses on historical records. Although archival collections can often be found within library buildings, they are quite distinct from libraries with regard to their functions and organization.

The term archives can mean different things and can be defined in three ways namely ;

  • - Historical record collections : These are groups of records like papers, documents, files, photographs and other similar materials collected and preserved by an individual or organization.
  • - Repositories (Physical facilities) : Here archives refers to a physical location or facility like a building or part of a building where archival records are located
  • - Organizations : Archives may also mean an organization, program or agency that is responsible for managing and preserving historical records.

Though archives are found in many different contexts, all archival programs have the same fundamental goal; i.e preservation of records about history and cultural heritage.

Archival records are normally unpublished and almost always unique. These records are preserved in any type of document forms like books, papers, letters, written manuscripts, maps, plans, diaries, electronic records, photographs, clippings, video and sound recordings, films drawings, photocopied and microfilmed material and so on. Nowadays, audio/ tape recordings, visual material, computer discs etc. are also being used to generate and maintain archival records. These may be copied onto some other format to protect the original and to make the records more accessible. Researchers use archival records to find evidence of the past. The photographs, films, letters, personal diaries, and official documents kept in archives tell us about different aspects of our collective history and culture. Historians, scholars, genealogists, lawyers, biographers, independent writers, documentary filmmakers, demographers, students, analyst and also administrative departments take advantage of archival sources.

The study and practice of organizing, preserving, and providing access to information and materials in archives is called archival science or archival administration. A person who works in archives are professionally known as an archivist. Archivists follow standards and best practices to manage historical record collections. They evaluate, collects, organizes, preserves and maintains records that have enduring value as reliable memories of the past. They are the people who are responsible for the documentations in national and local archives, universities, hospitals, businesses, etc. They preserve and make records accessible for legal, financial, and administrative purposes.

How to become an Archivist

Eligibility : Most colleges and universities teach Archival Science as a subsidiary subject with Information Science, or paired with a History program. Graduates in history, library science, political science, archival science or a similar discipline can start off their career as an archivist with archival coursework and some practical knowledge. The minimum educational qualification required to join for the above mentioned courses is 10+2 or its equivalent. On completion of the bachelors degree, one can go for masters in the respective field and can further enroll for M.Phil or Ph.D.

Some institutes in India offer Certificate and diploma courses in Archival Science such as PG Certificate in Archives, Post Graduate Diploma in Archives Studies, Post Graduate Diploma in Archives Keeping, Post Graduate Diploma in Archives and Documentation & Management, Post Graduate Diploma in Archival Science and Manuscriptology etc. These courses enable a student to gain knowledge of basic archival theory, methods, and/or practice of appraisal, including records management, aspects of library and information science management, and historical and research methods.

School of Archival Studies, formerly known as Institute of Archival Training set up in 1976 by National Archives of India is one of the most prestigious institutes in India for archival studies. The school was established to meet the demand for trained custodians of archival and library wealth. The school conducts theory and practical classes to train archivists, record managers, preservationists and microphotographists. The training programme is supplemented by seminars, workshops and extension lectures by eminent archivists, preservationists and microphotographists from leading institutions and universities. The institute conducts, 1 year Diploma in Archival Studies (for MA history graduates) and certificate courses which last for four weeks and eight weeks.

Personal Skills Needed : Archivists need to have good communication skills, analytical and research skills, an eye for detail, problem-solving skills and organisational ability. They need to be patient, accurate, thorough and be able to make good judgments about what information to keep. They should work in a well organised and methodical manner, be able to keep information private and work well under pressure. Persuasion, logical thinking, art appreciation, creativity, keen observation, learning strategies, reading comprehension, coordination, systems analysis are some valuable qualities needed for an archivist. An archivist should possess a strong sense and interest in history, tradition & information administration and have a sensible ability in the corporal care of records. They should manage the archival repositories properly. They might require additional experience or education, depending on the type of museum or institution they work for. Archivists need research skills and analytical ability to understand the content of documents and the context in which they were created. Archivists should have a working knowledge of computers and other electronic devices. Job Prospects and Career Options in Archival Studies.

A graduate or postgraduate degree in one or more areas like history, art history, anthropology, archaeology, Latin, English literature, public administration, politics, law or economics or a postgraduate degree in Library and Information Studies; Museum, Gallery and Archives Management and Information Management is essential to get into the field of archival study. An archivist need to receive formal education in archival administration in an academic setting or formal training at a special archives institute in order to preserve and restore the archives.

The major tasks performed by the archivists are evaluation, collection, organization and preservation of useful records. During the evaluation process, archivists identify the historical records that should be maintained by the archives. After that, these records are arranged in a logical order, protecting their condition, and describing them so that users can easily find what they are looking for. They catalogue the material and make them available to researchers. An archivist promotes the collection of these records for research and educational purposes and also at the same time, ensure the safety and security of the records.

An archivist has to assist research workers and guide the visitors, shortlist various materials according to their merit and organize them accordingly, make copies of the documents to avoid any damage caused to them. It is the archivist who decide what to include in the collection and which documents should be photocopied, laminated or stored on microfilm or in some other way. The working conditions of archivists vary according to the organization they work for. They have to deal with some of the most precarious records of information and other valuables of historical and national importance. An archivist can specialize in their work and be a Film Archivist, Reference Archivist, Photographic Archivist, Appraisal Archivist, Digital Archivist, Manuscript Archivist etc. Their work profile may include :

  • Film Archivist - Film archivists who are the librarians of the movie world have the responsibility to organize, preserve and maintains film collections for a particular group or agency. Also known as a motion picture archivist, film archivists work for large film studios, universities, or private individuals and foundations. The archives may include a collection of film reels, videotapes, DVDs, CDs, various forms of digitally transferred films, scripts, production schedules, still pictures and any other movie-related media. These may be stored for protection or publicly displayed, often for educational and entertainment purposes.
  • Reference Archivist - Reference archivists help archive patrons navigate information retrieval systems and provide necessary tools, like finding guides or online searching to locate materials. They are responsible for documentation/ recording Information in written or electronic/magnetic form and also for obtaining information from all relevant sources. They should organize, prepare and preserve archival records, documents and objects, copying records to film, videotape, audiotape, disk, or computer formats as necessary.
  • Photographic Archivist - Photo archivists have the responsibility to preserve, organize and archive photographs. They prepare and arrange their collections for exhibition, communicating with potential donors regarding acquisitions and sometimes publishing research findings. Photographic Archivist can find job in museums, libraries, history centers, research institutions, universities, public and private collections and auction houses.
  • Appraisal Archivist - Appraisal Archivist have the responsibility to examine and determine the value of records and other documents. The basis of appraisal decisions may include a number of factors, including the records provenance and content, their authenticity and reliability, their order and completeness, their condition and costs to preserve them and their intrinsic value.

Archivists who work in cultural institutions or for local government, frequently design educational or outreach programs to further the ability of archive users to understand and access information in their Archivist collections. This includes activities like exhibitions, promotional events or even media coverage. Similarly in the case of medical science, a research worker may seek information and data from the archives to study the classifications of the human life cycle and the pattern of any ailment or affliction that human body suffers.

Job Prospects

Graduates in archival studies can find openings in corporate organizations handling any kind of data. Many people start off their career as assistant archivists. Trained and qualified archivist with proficiency in handling and maintenance of records and manuscripts are needed for preserving and handling various data and information records of historical as well as of national importance. Archivists can find openings in the archival units of various organizations such as museums, government agencies, colleges and universities, industrial and commercial firms, hospitals, historical societies, charities, corporations and any institution whose records may potentially be valuable to researchers, exhibitors, genealogists, or others who would benefit from having access to original source material.

Those who seek employment in government sectors must have to pass the examinations conducted by Union Public Service commission or Staff Selection Commission. National Archives of India, an attached office of the Ministry of Culture, which manages all the important documents and archives of the nation offer various job opportunities to qualified candidates in its various units. Indian Council for Historical Research appoint candidates to various posts include Archivists, Assistant Archivists, Director of Archives, Assistant Director of Archives for Records and Publication and Keeper of Records. Those with second class Master's Degree in Modern Indian History of a recognized University or equivalent with Knowledge of Archival Science and experience in relevant field are eligible for the posts. Archivists with a PhD degree are offered higher ranked positions in educational institutes with faculty status. In India, only limited opportunities are available in the field of archives. But candidates who specialize in archival studies are qualified for the wide variety of careers in other fields like libraries, manuscript repositories, special collections, records management agencies etc.

Pay Scale for Archivists

Pay packages offered to archivists differ largely, based on the nature of the employers. A fresher can earn a starting salary ranging from Rs. 10000 to Rs. 15000 per month. Experienced and qualified professionals can get higher salary packages of about Rs.20,000 per month. With increase in experience, one can easily get more. The initial pay scale of Assistant Archivist in the universities and institutes range from Rs. 15,000/- to Rs. 20,200/-. The pay scale of Assistant Archivist (general), for the Office of Director General, Archeological Survey of India range from Rs. 30,000 – 35,000. The pay scale of archivists in Central and State Governments ranges from Rs. 25,000/- – 50,000/-. In Reserve Bank of India (RBI/Bank) the chief archivist (Deputy General Manager) will draw a starting basic pay of Rs. 35,000/- p.m. They will also be eligible for dearness allowance, local allowance, house allowance, family allowance, Grade Allowance as per rules in force from time to time. 

Courses offered : • B.A. Archival Science • Certificate Course in Archives Management • Certificate Course in Care and Conservation of Books, Manuscripts and Archives • Diploma in Archives and Documentation • Diploma in Archives and Records Management • M.Phil Archival Science • P.G. Diploma in Archival Studies and Museology • Post Graduate Certificate Course in Archives • Post Graduate Diploma in Archival Science and Manuscriptology • Post Graduate Diploma in Archival Studies • Post Graduate Diploma in Archives, Documentation and Management



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