At the beginning of the semester, we were introduced to the question “What is an archivist?”. I wrote my first class blog on this very topic and defined it that first week, where I wrote “An archivist processes, manages, and makes available a variety of media that serve audiences in their pursuit of knowledge.” Now that we’re about halfway through the semester, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my first definition and see d since I initially wrote it.
In the last couple of weeks, though, I’ve noticed that my own definition is a scant coverage of what archivists actually do. Archivists are also grant writers, budget managers, negotiators, preservationists, timekeepers, researchers, exhibit builders, digital developers, social stewards and communicators, etc. etc. and the list goes on infinitely. It’s certainly a far cry from “the archivist in the stack” image I had before going to college.
While that captures the nuance, importance, and challenges of the archival profession, it still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Why are the archives themselves important – and how would I articulate that value for someone in an elevator speech? We’ve seen over the weeks, as has argued David Bearman in his chapter on “Access and Use” that archives are only reaching small portions of the population. About one in four people will access the National Archives at least once. Archives are important because they are the sources of information that promote a stake in society, both in the past and the present. Perhaps the sooner archives are introduced in our educational lives, the more people are aware of their value. This isn’t a new argument, but if there is more an investment archives from beginning educational ages with programs such as National History Day, archivists might have to spend less time defending their profession and their collections.
 David Bearman. "Access and Use." Chapter 4 in Archival Methods. Pittsburgh: Archives and Museum Informatics Technical Reports, Vol. 3, no. 1, Spring 1989. pp. 39-48. http://www.archimuse.com/publishing/archival_methods/#ch4.