Events Watch, Rachael Muir – Section for New Professionals 3rd Summer Seminar

Events Watch enables new professionals to share their thoughts and learning outcomes from events they have recently attended (such as conferences and training) for the benefit of all new professionals.

This time Rachael Muir will be sharing her experiences from the Section for New Professionals 3rd Summer Seminar 2013.

The New Register House Dome

The New Register House Dome

On Friday the 21st of June, over 50 members of the Archives and Records Association’s Section for New Professionals gathered at the spectacular New Register House Dome at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh. A fun-packed programme had been put together for the day ahead by the section’s committee. The event provided new professionals a chance to network, learn about the importance of advocacy in the archive world, and create an opportunity to hear from professionals currently employed in the sector.

A well-planned networking session kick-started the day’s activities. On arrival, each new professional had been allocated to a group that consisted of archive assistants, assistant archivists, and students currently enrolled on an archive and/or records management course. An animated ‘getting-to-know session’ emerged within each group as questions were asked about thoughts on course modules and the different types of records that we had all worked with. The enthusiastic chatting certainly demonstrated that archivists have perfected the art of networking!

Following this interactive start to the seminar was a presentation by Chris Fryer, Digital Curator and Assistant Records Manager at Northumberland Estates. Chris’s role as a Digital Curator is largely responsible for creating a digital repository for the estate’s electronic records. For many new professionals to the archive sector, we will no doubt face similar challenges of trying to gain support amongst staff for an EDRMS, or deliberating over what type of digital preservation software to choose. This presentation was particularly well suited to the new professional career bracket as Chris only graduated from the MSc in Information Management and Preservation (Digital) in 2011! To hear what he was implementing within two years of graduating was hugely inspiring.

A lively and thought-provoking presentation by Richard Taylor, City Archivist at the City of York Archives followed after lunch. The importance of advocacy within the archive world was one of his main themes as he told us his professional journey from conducting an archive research study right through to successfully gaining Heritage Lottery Funding for a new city archive in York. It was a fascinating insight into the importance of maintaining contacts and relationships throughout your career. It was clear to many of us in the audience that creating policies and archive procedures is only the start of an archive service; communicating with stakeholders is an important element which brought success to the City of York Archives’ funding bid. Ultimately, Richard’s message was to ‘start from where you are now’ as an archive, and not to dwell on issues that may have hindered the service in the past. His words of advice were hugely helpful to us all as we enter a profession where strategy, policies, effective communication and funding bids are now a pivotal part of the profession.

A motivating talk delivered by Donald Lickley from Sue Hill Recruitment clarified some useful interview and application techniques. Some interesting questions emerged from the audience, such as how we should tackle questions such as ‘what do your friends think about you?’ (Note: really means what are your strengths?)This led on to the final segment of the day which consisted of a panel debate featuring Donald Lickley (Sue Hill Recruitment), Pam McNicol (Stirling Archives), Richard Taylor (City of York Archives) and Arnott Wilson (University of Edinburgh Special Collections). The audience of new professionals were able to ask questions regarding good interview techniques, and how to create an eye-catching application form. Important points were made such as ‘being aware of your weaknesses is a good thing’, ‘being prepared to answer questions about your CV’, as well as not being frightened to ask for an interviewer to expand on a question. Audience questions were also answered about how to best prepare a PowerPoint presentation for an interview, as well as clarification over the role of the mysterious HR person on an interview panel!

Overall, the Summer Seminar was hugely beneficial to new professionals who are now making their journey into the archive sector. A great variety of current archive professionals were present to offer their personal experiences or career advice where possible. Whether it was learning how to create a digital repository, how to submit a stand-out application form, or just to have the opportunity to meet fellow new professionals, the seminar certainly had something for everybody!

Rachael Muir, current student of Archives and Records Management at UCL

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