Recently, I’ve actually have been researching different types of degrees in the field of Museums and other heritage/history based careers. The four main areas of careers I’ve looked at are Archiving, Curation, Cultural Resource Management, and Cultural Heritage Management. I’ve also looked into Museum Library Science in the past and even took a course of a intro to Library Science last semester to see if that introduction would spark an interest for me. Even though I enjoyed the class and the research I had to do for the course, it still wasn’t the type of job I can see myself doing. However, one of the main jobs that got me curious and interested is archiving. Although, I am conflicted between that or curation – I am more familiar with archives and preserving information whether it be physical or digital.

I’ll explain what archiving is according to K. Latham and J. Simmons in “Museum Workers” (pg. 101; 2014). As an archivist, the main focus of the job is mostly the organization, indexing, classification, storage, and retrieval of manuscripts and records. This means that a duty of an archivist is very important so that information and important written artifacts from the past won’t get lost in the future. What this type of museum career got me so interested and curious is because, in a sense, I was already an archivist. I will clarify that I’m not a professional in anyway but I have been practicing and studying what it means to be an archivist via ancestry research.

A little backstory on how I gotten into ancestry research was through a creative research class back in high school. The topic had to be something that we could actually research and present to the class and to the public. With that in mind, I thought of ancestry research along with comparing and contrasting my DNA analysis to the records that I complied about the origins of my heritage. Throughout my research, I learned how important records were along with the accuracy the records, manuscripts and other forms of written artifacts. Most of these records that I discovered were digitalized which is amazing! Why do I say that it’s amazing about records being digitalized? Well, if the records are digitalized then that means not only the records can be accessible to the public but that if the original records are lost or destroyed – then the copy of the records can be saved to computer and other databases. For an example of a record that is digitalized, I have a copy of my 6th great-grandparents marriage date in the U.S. Dutch Reformed Church records in Marbletown, NY. If this or any of my ancestors marriage records, baptismal records, or even death records were lost or destroyed – I wouldn’t have been able to continue my research back in high school. (I’ll actually leave a photo copy of this exampled record below).

Now back to Museums and archival records/documents/artifacts; I believe that it’s extremely important to keep documents and records for museum artifacts. If there was a collection of artifacts in the past that had no documentation, then not only the history of the artifact is lost but also – dare I say – the credibility of the museum would be suspicious. It is extremally important to preserve history via records and documents so that our future can learn from the past. Without the past, then the future would have no foundation to stand on. One of my favorite YouTube series is called “Curator’s Corner” by the British Museum. In one of their videos, they introduced the audience to Archivist Francesca Hillier and what her job duties it is to be the archivist for the British Museum. The whole video and even the series is fascinating. By just rewatching the video, a job of being an archivist is very inspiring. I loved all the artifacts that she shared as examples and even the records for the museum that dates from 1753. (If any of you are interested in the video or even the series, I would most definitely leave a link to the video.)

Overall, to answer the question about “what would my ideal museum job look like?”; Well, I believe that if I was to be an archivist I would not only preserve the records/documents/artifacts of the museums collections but also take in inquires of the museums records and even record about the museum in the present day for the future archives. I believe that archiving in general is very important. You can say that archivists were technically the first kinds of historians in our human history. Without archivists and record making, then most likely all or most historical records would be lost. Lastly, dare I say museums really rely on archivists because archivists are the back bone of public education and institutes.

Question: Have you interact with any forms of archives? If so, what interested you?

U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records (Marbletown, NY) – Marriage Records (August 3rd, 1796 – Dirk Terwilliger and Mary Krom)
British Museum – Library & Archive

4 Thoughts to “Hannah Terwilliger: What does your ideal museum job look like?”

  1. Arianna Wyanski

    I don’t think that I’ve ever interacted with archives, but I have been an assistant at a few libraries, which might be considered archival work. Mostly because of the system that they use for putting books back into their spots, which is kind of similar to archives. The thing that interested me the most was the whole system that libraries have for books, and to me it just makes sense and is fairly straight forward.

  2. Avatar photoSavanna VonScheele

    Hey Hannah,
    I like that you already know you what you want to go into and that you have been researching the different careers and if you had to choose an ideal job it be an archivist,
    Well I have not interacted with any archival forms physically or in on an archivist level. I have gone through the website and had to go through some of the photo documents to see what a traditional dwelling would look like for the different cultural groups and put them into files for my job. I find it kind of cool that some of the photos are just of early downtown anchorage, that they have early landscape photos of different areas in Alaska.

  3. Korovin Ellis

    The extent of my experience with archives is taking a library science here at UAF as an undergrad, and looking through the library’s collections for comprehensive exams. while I’m not interested in pursuing a career in archiving, It feels like an important part of museum work and I’m glad to see there are people like you who are so passionate about recording and preserving knowledge.

  4. Angela Linn

    I love archives Hannah, and I agree that the stories preserved in the files and boxes on the shelves of archives are essential to knowing the histories of communities. In all of my various museum research projects, whether it’s filling out the provenance of the objects in the collection under my care, or for the exhibits for which I’ve been on the curatorial teams, archival research has been essential to finding the little details that enable personal connections.

    Angie Schmidt brought up a great piece of advice in the module 3 meet-up – if you’re interested in archival work you should consider looking into Library & Information Science programs. These programs and especially the masters degrees seem to be the primary training you’ll need to run an archives, whether it’s located in a museum or a library.

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