Behind The Scenes, 3 July 2019: Teaching Archives
by Stacey Anderson, Media Archivist and Louisa Blight, Collections Manager
Picture the scene: two archivists in a room, reflecting on their career journeys, skills and knowledge. “Wouldn’t it be great,” said one to the other, “to give something back? To help nurture the next generation of archivists and practitioners?” So that’s exactly what we did!
In 2015, to coincide with the development of The Box and the strengthening of the partnership working between the Museums Galleries Archives service and the University of Plymouth, academics and archivists began to work together to develop a new and innovative offer.
Our goal was to design a course with core and optional modules that reflected the values of the professional archive sector. We looked to a new framework being developed by the Archives and Records Association (ARA) which gave us our USP; an emphasis on ‘practice’.
This was also the inspiration for including a Continuing Professional Development module around the business of archives. This enables existing practitioners to develop enhanced knowledge and skills that they can then apply to their everyday work.
All of this combined, gave us the official name for the programme – the MA Archival Practice. It’s a one-year programme that can be studied either full or part time. Students gain practical experience of working in an archive from dealing with materials such as manuscripts, maps, film, sound and digital archives, to thinking about practical matters like fundraising, communication, outreach and employment law.
Over the next two years we worked closely with the University’s School of Humanities and Performing Arts to develop the reams of required paperwork. We appointed an academic lead – Dr. Rebecca Emmett, refined our curriculum, and in September 2018 welcomed our very first intake.
Delivering the MA has also been a significant team effort. Through seminars and spotlight sessions, our students have benefited from hearing the voices of professionals from across our service – not just archivists and academics, but learning and engagement officers, conservation specialists, media archive technicians as well as staff who are responsible for marketing, business and operations. This approach has proved to be a major strength for the programme.
We have learnt along the way too – thanks to the support of Dr. Emmett and other colleagues at the University. Now we are working archivists and we teach. The MA is giving us opportunities to build on our own sense of professionalism and keep our knowledge and skills current.
Teaching archives has helped define and add value to what it means for us to be archivists – and hopefully proudly pass the baton to a new generation of archivists and archive practitioners who will inspire others in the future.
You can find out more about the MA Archival Practice here.