How long have you been working at PROV?
15 years (though I was part-time for just over a year and a half from mid-2015 to early-2017 while I also worked part-time at the University of Melbourne Archives).
What is your role at PROV?
At the moment I mainly work on projects relating to the PROV collection, improving descriptions, discoverability and data about records in the collection. I also do some work on documenting and transferring records into archival custody, most recently Bendigo Health records at Bendigo Regional Archives Centre, SECV Ballarat estray records that came to us via a private individual, and Creswick Cemetery records that have been identified for priority transfer and digitisation. I am the former Editor/Co-Editor of the PROV journal Provenance (2004–2017), and continue to have a role with the journal as an assistant editor supporting the new journal Editor, and as a member of its editorial board. I also provide a volunteer contribution to PROV’s public gallery space program, assisting with production and curating street photography exhibitions. I have a detail focus, but love variety and opportunities for creativity.
How did you get into your current role?
In the time that I have been at PROV I have roamed around in various roles, starting off in online projects, curating online content and online exhibitions such as 'Lucy', 'Tracking the Native Police', 'Bigamy, Theft and Murder' and later on travelling exhibitions such as 'Footprints', and 'PROV 40th Anniversary', been the editor of books such as 'Footprints' and 'The Lands Guide', worked in Community Archives in various roles, leading Ballarat Archives Centre, and at one stage was acting coordinator of the Koorie Records Unit, overseeing grants programs. Having worked for so long in providing access and interpretation of the collection, I turned my attention to other potential roles and skills, and in recent years I developed an interest and started doing some small projects in core archival activities and skills such as arrangement and description, appraisal and disposal, transfers, collection documentation and management, and so am glad to be working in part of the organisation where I can engage more fully in that mix of work.
Why did you want to work at PROV?
I wanted to work here because it was a memory and research collection, and I love research, history, cultural heritage, writing and material culture. I am particularly interested in the way that archives are revelatory about power and memory, and allow stories to be told about why decisions are made, who they affect, and how they can be deployed to empower as much as to administer. That I could work in such a place where I could directly contribute to creative and educational projects but also help facilitate those sorts of projects for others in the wider community makes it a very rewarding place to work. There are many passionate like-minded people here and that also makes it an attractive place to continue pursuing my career.
From when you arrive at the Victorian Archives Centre in the morning until you leave in the evening, what does a typical day look like?
My job is varied and mobile around the building, and not prone to routines, but I do tend to check my latest emails in the morning, send responses, make some calls if necessary then maybe grab a coffee. Then it just depends on what projects I’m working on at any particular time. Sometimes I will be going into the repository to check records against data that we have in the catalogue (ArchivesOne), then coming back to my PC to update details. If there has been some new data for records that has been created by staff or volunteers I might be the person who uploads it into ArchivesOne so that it then becomes available for researchers using our public catalogue. On some days I might need to go out to Bendigo to do work in the local repository to check records are properly described in our data. I may need to check series registrations files that document work done by previous archivists, so might take a walk to level 2 of our building where the context library is located to do some research into records, or ask one of my team members to bring the file down to me. Throughout the day there is always a chance to catch up with colleagues as you walk around different parts of the building to do different tasks.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your role?
Making records more accessible to researchers is the thing that I enjoy most about my current role. That can be by improving the data available in the search catalogue, bringing records into custody and documenting them, or by writing web pages that provide an explanation on how to do specific types of searches.
What are the most important skills in your role? Which do you use every day?
In terms of generic skills, attention to detail is very important, making sure that when you do something you are as accurate as possible, being able to solve problems by research and discovery. As for technical skills, knowing how an archive was created and how it is organised is probably the most important skill that I have – it is so important that I don’t realise that I am even using it because it is the fundamental knowledge and practice of how to navigate the archive. In that respect, being able to interrogate archival data through our current back end systems (ArchivesOne) is the adjunct to this technical skill because that is the IT tool through which our knowledge and documentation of the archive is accessed, revised and kept up to date.
What advice would you give to someone entering the field?
What type of background would be most helpful? Generally a degree in records, archives or information management is the formal qualification that is most targeted to this kind of work. But you could probably also get by with a related degree, such as museum studies or public history. Having an interest in and experience working with collections, material culture, how government works, cultural heritage and social history would all be useful as well.