should a historian become an archivist? details inside
April 24, 2010 10:26 AM Subscribe
should a historian become an archivist?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I live in a small European country. I got a PhD in history a couple of years ago and have been mostly employed as a lecturer and tutor ever since. I am still working, however, in the same university I did all my undergraduate and postgraduate work in. I am very dedicated and love teaching, but I feel very personally stunted by never having left my alma mater. My department and my supervisor were very laissez faire on career development and in 7 years (count them) I've only done 5 conferences (only one outside the country I live in), and published nothing. The current economic situation makes it seem like I would be better off looking abroad for work, but I have a very stable and quite happy set up in the city that I live in and I'm reluctant to leave it. Part of the reason for not having published is that I work on a pre-modern topic which demands a lot of archival time to do it properly and I am meticulous (I am working on two articles now in the spare time that I have). I know that I am capable of eventually producing quite a good book if I continue to research, and those who’ve worked with me show a lot of faith in my abilities, but the realities of this situation are depressing me. Paying off a loan I got to finish my doctoral studies while living below the minimum wage is really taking its toll at this stage. Additionally, I’d really like to see Japan before I die, write a novel, play in a band, etc, and I've found that the cycle in academia has been the same since I started as a postgraduate. By the time term comes to an end, I'm a nervous wreck with stress and RSI, exhausted, and feeling stale and bored from working on the same material all the time (I’m 28, and I’ve been in college continuously – and yes, I’ve read the Anatomy of Melancholy and I know what ‘overmuch study’ does to a person in theory and in practice)
So, I'm thinking about spending next year getting a masters in archival and records management in a different university instead of hanging around waiting for a post-doc that suits my subject to come up. I read this: http://cliobluestockingtales.blogspot.com/2006/05/why-i-thought-becoming-archivist-was.html, which made me pause. I love libraries and archives and can get obsessively absorbed in looking at books and manuscripts for hours, but I also enjoy working with other people, which teaching allows for. Ideally I’d like to be a rare books librarian or pre-modern manuscript archivist and continue to publish academically while also making enough money to not have to constantly worry about it and make future plans, but I’m finding thus far that my teaching load is too onerous to do both except outside of term time. I'm also hoping that my theoretical and practical knowledge of the material I'm already familiar with can be built on if I work in the kind of archives that have this material. Am I concieving things from a historian's perspective and getting it wrong? Has anyone made this transition and did they have different experiences to Clio?