Archivist Jackie’s 25 years of service
I joined Argyll and Bute Council on 26th August 1996 as Service Support Officer for Corporate Services, dealing with finance, health and safety, and personnel duties. In 2004 my head of service, Charles Reppke, asked me if I would like to work towards a qualification in archives management. The then archivist, Murdo MacDonald, was only a few years from retirement and there were fears that replacing him might be a challenge. Training me meant that the council would be guaranteed to have at least one applicant.
At that time the professional body for archivists was the Society of Archivists (now the Archives and Records Association). To become a member of the society (which local authority archivists had to be) meant studying for a post-graduate qualification from an approved university. I studied online with the University of Dundee, learning first of all about the basic principles of managing archives and then about more specialised subjects such as local government records, palaeography, and family history. Since qualifying I have also studied individual modules for Continuing Professional Development. These have included digital preservation, Latin and military history.
Murdo retired in April 2006. This coincided with an organisational restructuring within Argyll & Bute Council. One of the savings options identified was to merge my service support officer post with Murdo’s, creating a new post of Archives and Administration Manager. I continued in this post until 2011 when another restructuring saw the archives transferred to Community Services and my post became that of full time Archivist. Then in 2017 the archives was transferred to liveArgyll along with a range of other leisure and library services.
As a sole archivist working in liveArgyll, I work on lots of different activities. I can be arranging and describing records (which is the activity that lets researchers identify which records they need) when a customer comes in and I switch to helping them. They might be researching anything from their family tree or the history of their house to wider ranging topics such as crime in the county of Argyll or sports clubs in Oban. I also carry out research for council services; arrange exhibitions; acquire records from council departments, private individuals or organisations; and work on special projects. The most prominent of these was the Written in the Landscape project, which was carried out in partnership with Argyll Estates. This saw us working with community archives all over Argyll, giving talks to local history groups, and cataloguing our estate records to make them more accessible to researchers.
Working in archives makes for a very interesting career. We have vacancies for volunteers, if you want to experience just a bit of what it’s like. Or visit us, and carry out some research of your own.