Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The work of an archivist

In the first blog post I wrote I spoke about the various stages of the work that an archivist does in preparing a collection to make it accessible in the reading room. I am now down to the last of the boxes and files in the arrangement phase. The time it can take to arrange an archive can vary depending on the size of the archive and the order in which the material is in the archive.

During the arrangement phase archivists look to keep and respect the order that the creators arranged their own records. In archival terminology this means that I look at the Muintir na Tíre collection as a fonds. This comes from the term respect des fonds, an archival principle which tells us to acknowledge the source, or provenance, of records when we are arranging them. By maintaining the original order we can learn a lot more about the organisation and the records and how Muintir na Tíre worked.

However, this is not always easy to do especially when you receive a collection has been stored like this and no original order has been kept. 


Another aspect that makes it hard to appraise and arrange the collection and follow the archival principles described above is when you get a bundle of loose papers. It requires a lot of patience and skill to arrange the material and put some order on it and make sense of the material in the bundles.


My work as an archivist is to help put order on the archive especially the messier aspects of it and provide sense of the records but also help researchers make sense of it. 


The Muintir na Tíre archive as stated in my first blog was partially organised. This work was done by Tom Fitzgerald. Tom Fitzgerald worked in Muintir na Tíre for over 60 years and was the main administrator and was the creator and keeper of the majority of the files within the archive. Building on this work I will provide further sense of the archive.

That means that each item will have been arranged in a hierarchy that will look something like below:


But what does this actually mean? This means that as I am arranging the Muintir na Tíre archive (fonds) that it will be divided into series and subseries which are groupings of the records based on function or theme or subject. The series or subseries would then have files which includes items within them. 

A description will be provided for at the top level and or the file level of the collection. Each file will also be provided with a reference number. The archive uses archival management software to create our catalogues/finding aids and publish the catalogue on line. To view the catalogue go here.

I hope that this blog has given you a further insight into the work of an archivist as we are progressing through the Muintir na Tíre archive and end one phase and begin another. 

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