Hi I’m Sean. I’m the graduate library and archives trainee for Magdalen College. I graduated from UCL in September 2009, and have spent the last year volunteering in several archives; these included Senate House Library in London, UCL Special Collections, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Royal College of Surgeons and the National Maritime Museum. And no I did not get paid for any of them.
In order to learn more about records side of ‘Archives and Records Management’, I volunteered at the IRMT, who were kind enough to offer me a part time job – the greatest compliment I can give them is that they made records management seem interesting. I also ended up with a part time job at Senate House Library – though not as an archivist, but on the circulation desk. Although I intend to go down the archives route, I did enjoy working the library, and still do as part of my current job.
At the moment I am spending two days per week in the college library, dealing with queries, circulation, managing the small but well used Law Library and invigilating users of the Old Library (amongst any other smaller tasks that need doing). I spend the other three days in the archives, where I mostly work in accessioning, cataloguing and processing requests from researchers. So far this has turned up previously classified allied propaganda from WWII, a post card to the President from Seamus Heaney (using a stamp with his own face on) and naked pictures of AJP Taylor – so perhaps not as boring as it sounds. I will also be spending some time in a conservation studio that several colleges use for preserving their rare books and archival material, where I am tasked with cleaning the College’s medieval deeds.
If anybody reading this is considering applying for a traineeship next year I would very much recommend it – the group training sessions and the opportunity to meet other people in the same situation as you is something you don’t really get from volunteer positions or part-time jobs, or even from similar traineeships at other institutions.
I am aware from personal experience that there is not always a great deal of support for aspiring archivists, so if anyone would like some help about volunteering or applying for traineeships, please feel free to email me and I will do my best to help.