Film archivist

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Vicky Hall is an archivist at an independent TV company. However, the job involves more than just filing dusty boxes and old reels of film. She meets a steady stream of people all wanting film of specific items for the programmes they are compiling.

How would you outline your role?

It's my job to organise and look after parts of our film library, and deal with enquiries from researchers and journalists.

What are your main responsibilities?

The archive is a mixture of films, videotapes, DVDs, and CDs, as well as scripts, production schedules and stills, which I need to arrange and collate in such a way that's easy for people to use. One of the most important jobs is cataloguing all the materials, especially new stuff that comes in.

I also give advice and assist other people in the company who make use of the archive, which may involve running training sessions. My job also involves supervising people who come here to do work placements. More and more archives are now being digitised, so I also spend time searching computer databases and adding new information to them.

Is your job similar to that of a librarian?

Yes, except I am dealing with film not books. Parts of my role are similar to a librarian's, and involve helping people find a particular film clip they need for a programme they're working on.

When I issue items from the archive to production and research staff, I need to keep an accurate record of what's been borrowed and when it's returned. If an item is being used by an outside organisation I have to arrange for them to sign a licensing agreement.

What hours do you work?

I work regular office hours, from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm but I'm also part of a weekend rota. Occasionally I work late if our systems are being updated or there's a particular backlog of materials to archive.

What's your working environment like?

I work in modern, comfortable, offices that are neat and tidy, so you can forget the idea of working in a dimly lit room full of dusty boxes! The archive storage area is temperature controlled and slightly cooler than the rest of the office.

Who do you work with?

Although I'm part of a team, I do spend a lot of time working on my own.

What special skills or qualities do you need for your job?

You need to be organised and take great care in what you're doing. Attention to detail and accuracy are crucial because unless you work to a system an archive can soon become unmanageable.

You need to be good at analysing things and enjoy researching things. You've often got to be quite determined to get to the bottom of something. You also need to understand the different methods of organising, storing and finding information in an archive.

Being able to get on with other people is important too, and you obviously need to know how to use a computer and the internet.

Why did you choose this type of work?

I think it's really important to preserve our past and I think more and more people now appreciate the importance of keeping historical documents rather than just throwing things away. I also enjoy helping people find the exact clip they need.

What training have you done?

I've learnt a lot on the job, but there are also regular training seminars, conferences and workshops. It is important to stay up-to-date with the latest thinking on archives and records management.

Do you use any tools or equipment?

Computers are our main tools, as well as special document storage cabinets and filing systems, microfilm scanners and videos.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the thought that one day I'll unearth a hidden gem – something that hasn't been seen for years or which people thought had been lost forever.

How do you see your future?

I would like to head up my own archive, perhaps at a large film studio, private collection or one of the universities.

Vicky's route

  • GCSEs and A levels.
  • Degree in English followed by a Diploma in Archive Administration.
  • Work experience in various public and private archives.
  • Archive assistant at Channel 4.
  • Joined present company as a film archivist.

Vicky's tips

  • You need to love films to work in a film archive, and have a good general knowledge of TV, cinema and their history.
  • Try and get as much work experience as possible. It doesn't have to involve films but working at somewhere like a public records office will get you used to the systems and ways of doing things.

Film archivist related jobs

Salary of a film archivistn

  • Starting salaries can range from £15,500 - £16,500, rising to around £25,500 with experience.
  • Pay levels vary depending on the employer, and where the archive is based.

How to become a film archivist

  • Entry is normally with a degree or HND, and many archivists have also studied for an MA/Diploma in Archive Administration Studies.
  • Many employers also expect candidates to have experience of historical or research work, or of working in a library or museum.
  • Any work that involves dealing with people such as customer service or teaching may also be helpful, as is experience in information management.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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