Assessors: providing an invaluable contribution to the work of the ARA

Have you ever considered becoming an assessor for our Professional Development Programme? Perhaps you’re concerned it would be too much a commitment? Or maybe you’re unsure what the role entails? In this blog I’ll shed some light on what our assessors do and explain the vital role they play in ensuring standards are maintained across the entire programme.

Our volunteer assessors make a vital contribution to the work of the ARA. They assess applications for Foundation, Registered and Fellowship status and CPD Reviews, ensuring that all applicants meet the required professional standards. There are plenty of opportunities for new assessors to get involved by taking on a few or as many assessments as they wish. The role is very flexible and as an assessor you can commit as much or as little time as you can offer. Since all assessments are carried out through the programme website, they can be done at a time that suits the assessor – they only thing they need is internet access!  

Training is provided to all new assessors and we hold an annual meeting with them to share experiences and discuss issues. We always ensure that assessors don’t have a conflict of interest with a candidate.

The role of an assessor is open to all ARA Foundation and Registered members, as well as Fellows. In fact, the voluntary role is ideal for anyone looking to develop their assessment and critical thinking skills. It’s a great way to gain experience and, at the same time, contribute to the development of the profession and the next generation of ARA qualified professionals.

But rather than just take my word for it, I asked two ARA assessors to share their thoughts on the role and the benefits of getting involved.

Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan MSc, RMARA, Director and Consultant Archivist qualified as an archivist in 1996 and went on to work in the museums and local authority sectors before setting up her own consultancy in 2003.  She has been a registered member of the ARA since 1999 and has been an assessor since then.

Elizabeth comments: “As an assessor you get to see the breadth of professional activity as well as the emergence of new types of working and trends.  For my own work, it helps inform my understanding of how the sector as a whole is developing which I then apply e.g. reviewing the current status of some aspects of the archive sector.  It also provides a great opportunity to learn about what other professionals are doing, from which you can learn and perhaps make contact.”  

Gavin McGuffie has been a professional archivist for more than twenty years. He is currently a Senior Archivist at the Postal Museum, a role he has held since 2017 having joined The Postal Museum’s predecessor, the British Postal Museum & Archive, in 2007 as Catalogue Manager. Prior to that he spent six years at the Guardian and Observer where he helped set up its Archive and Visitor Centre. Gavin has been a registered member of the ARA since 2001 and an assessor since 2010.

Like Elizabeth, Gavin has benefitted from this role: “Not only has being an assessor really helped with my knowledge of the issues facing archivists in different institutions, it’s also allowed me to recognise the communality of the challenges facing the profession more generally. Reading and considering others’ experiences in very varied circumstances as articulated in their applications can help put one’s own career development into proper perspective and illustrate how others have coped with challenging circumstances in their work lives. Being part of a wider assessment community provides an invaluable support network for seasoned professionals.”

If you would like to find out more about getting involved, please contact me. Look out for more in-depth interviews with Elizabeth and Gavin on the blog over the next few months.

Email: chris.sheridan@archives.org.uk or call 07377 940696.

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