Archival profession



The archivist holds a privileged and responsible position as custodian of the collective memory.

Archivists and archives assistants require a professional postgraduate qualification in Archives and Records management in order to understand the theory and practice of managing and preserving archival material. The theory and scholarly work underpinning archives practice is called Archival Science.

The role of an archivist/archives assistant includes the following duties (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Acquiring new collections through deposits, donations and deeds of gift
  • Appraisal i.e. deciding what is important and should be kept in the archive
  • Accessioning new material and adding it to a new or existing collection
  • Arranging: archivists apply two important principles. 1) Provenance, refers to the origin of records  and who created them; 2) Origin Order, refers to keeping records in their order as established and maintained by the creator.
  • Describing, cataloguing and repackaging
  • Digitisation through scanning or photography
  • Assisting researchers in the Reading Room by answering enquiries and retrieving items
  • Project work such as Memorja
  • Outreach e.g. promoting projects in the community or collaborating with owners of private archives
  • Preparing and setting up exhibitions
  • Liaising with conservator to ensure the continues preservation of the collections
(An example of Manuscript )


Richard Pearce-Moses wrote in 2006:

"Archivists keep records that have enduring value as reliable memories of the past, and they help people find and understand the information they need in those records."


Ed Pinsent, 9th November 2017:

The archivist brings out the truth, through adhering to the fundamental principles of provenance (where the papers came from) and original order (how they were kept). These two principles may sound musty and boring, yet have proven surprisingly robust as a reliable method for reflecting the truth.”


Elizabeth Shepherd, University College London, 2009:

“Archives ‘underpin citizens’ rights in a democratic state and are the raw material of our history and memory. Archivists and records managers are the professionals responsible for ensuring that these qualities are protected and exploited for the public good.” ​