June 24, 2016, by Matt Davies
From DHC to Houses of Parliament; how volunteering helped me to land my dream job by DHC volunteer alumna Rhiannon Compton.
As a history student at the University of Nottingham, I stumbled upon the career option of archivist. I knew that I loved history and that I wanted to continue it in some way and also I found information management really interesting. I began to undertake various work experiences with archives around the country to better understand the role. I quickly discovered that to become a qualified archivist you must undertake a Masters programme and build up relevant work experience equating, approximately, to one year’s work. Graduate Archive Assistant programmes are incredibly competitive and only a handful are offered each year, with most of them concentrated in London. Whilst this was a daunting prospect, I knew my best chance of getting on to the Masters programme was to get one of these positions which offer excellent on- the-job training.
And this is what brought me to role of DHC Student volunteer. I knew that working on a long term project would set me apart from other candidates, especially working with digital archiving and digitisation which is an emerging field in archive and record management. Fortunately for me, DHC Manager Matt Davies and Classics lecturer Dr Lynn Fotheringham were already collaborating on a project to create a digital archive of students’ work from the Independent Second Year Project (ISYP) module. Students on the module create projects through a variety of media such as podcasts, story books, magazines, mosaics, costumes and screenplays that demonstrate aspects of their work in Classics and Ancient History. I jumped at the chance to work on the archive, volunteered and found myself straight in at the deep end! The cataloguing software programme Portfolio had been selected to manage the images and data and my first task was to sit down with the software handbook and figure out how to create a catalogue from scratch. I then began the task of digitising the students’ work using the DHC equipment. Subsequently, over 18 months spent at the DHC, I have uploaded over 3000 items to the catalogue, organising them via students’ names, creating the specific field values and keywords that Dr. Fotheringham specified and then associating the metadata with the images making it a fully searchable database.
I have since found, whilst applying for graduate archive assistant positions, that my work at the DHC and on the ISYP digital archive has become one of the most impressive aspects of my CV. By volunteering I have proven my dedication to pursuing a career in archives, the ability to work independently on a project and have developed considerable skills and knowledge relating to digital archiving. Much of the profession now includes work on digital archiving and related software as well as knowledge of the digitization process. I discovered very quickly that some of the equipment I was able to use at the DHC is also used in archives, so I was very fortunate in having gained considerable experience with this equipment. I can, therefore, say with confidence that my time at the DHC helped me enormously in pursuing my dream job as an archivist. I am pleased to report that I have now accepted a job at the Houses of Parliament as a Graduate Archives Assistant and am certain that I will continue to expand the knowledge and skills that the DHC enabled me to acquire.