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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Normal Day for a Freer+Sackler Archivist

The Freer+Sackler Gallery Facebook page received the following query, and I thought I would copy my response to you here. Enjoy this glimpse into my corner of the Smithsonian!

Q: When I grow up I think I want to be an Archivist. What is their normal day like?

Dear Inquirer,

Every day is different for us in the Freer+Sackler Archives. To give you a brief taste of what it’s like to be an Archivist for a Smithsonian Institution art museum, I can describe to you some of my major responsibilities. (Follow the links to learn more about us and our collections!)

My primary responsibility is to be a custodian to the collections; which includes things like correspondence, diaries, vouchers, maps, drawings and photographs. I work with these materials on three major levels. The first level is collections care: to identify physical needs and perform basic preservation techniques to help prolong the life of the materials. The second level is the organization of the materials: to make them more physically and intellectually accessible to researchers. The third level is then promoting the materials so that researchers know what we have and they can easily access them; this is done with online finding aids (guides to the collections), online catalogs of collections (that you would search for just like a library book), as well as basic outreach like October American Archives Month to help promote what our archives are holding and advertise the crown jewel collections we have available for research.

In addition to my hands on work with the collections, I also collaborate and manage interns and volunteers on their projects. I interact with local and international researchers both in-person and remotely. I meet with my fellow archivists across the entire Smithsonian Institution regularly, in order to establish and maintain policies and procedures for all 12 of the independent Archival units. I write grants to help financially support our collections and projects to preserve and make them accessible to the public, both in-person and online. And when time allows I catch up on the latest news, lectures, and workshops to keep up to date on Archival standards and practices.

I hope that answers your question!

Rachael Cristine Woody


Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives

Check out our Collection Records online!

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