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What Does a Digital Archivist Do?

Nick Mann
Nick Mann

A digital archivist is a person who adds to and organizes information, such as documents or pictures, in an electronic database. To succeed at this career, an individual must usually be interested in history, adept at working with computers and well organized. In most cases, a digital archivist will be employed by a library, university or other organization. Some of the fundamental job duties include discussing archive needs with managers, locating materials, uploading and organizing materials on a database, assisting with retrieving relevant items and performing presentations.

Discussing archive needs with managers is usually the first thing a digital archivist will do when starting a project. The types of materials he may deal with can vary considerably, and could include items like documents, pictures, legal papers and newspapers. If he is working at a library, a digital archivist might receive orders to upload newspapers from a certain year onto a database. To perform his job effectively, he must be able to carefully listen to instructions.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Once he knows which materials need to be archived, a digital archivist will locate those materials. This may be easy or difficult depending upon the nature and amount of materials. In many cases, he will need to use caution and be delicate with sensitive materials like old documents that are of great importance.

After the necessary materials have been collected, it's up to a digital archivist to upload them onto a computer database. Typically, this involves scanning each document and making sure that it's clearly visible when viewed on a computer. Along with this, he will also need to organize materials so they can be easily found later on. This usually involves some type of cataloging or classification system. Uploading and classifying materials calls for an individual with effective organizational skills.

Another duty of a digital archivist is assisting people with retrieving relevant items in a computer database. While the database he assembles should be easily navigable, not all individuals will understand how to use it. When this is the case, a digital archivist will help familiarize a person with the database and assist with locating a particular item.

Additionally, he may also perform presentations from time to time. Since a digital archivist will often have a background in history, it's relatively common for him to give lectures on historical topics that he has dealt with. If he is working for a university, he will lecture to students. In a library work setting, he may lecture to patrons or the general public.

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