“Gaining ARA recognition for my career has improved my confidence”.

Please give a brief overview of your career so far.

I discovered archives in my first ‘proper’ job at the British Architectural Library and volunteered in the archives after hours to explore my interest. Inspired by the experience, I obtained my Masters in Archives Administration from UCL in 1996, after a year at London Metropolitan Archives.  

After qualifying, I joined Churchill Archives Centre as a cataloguer of the Churchill Papers. Since 2000 I have been a Senior Archivist and member of the management team and from 2018 I have also been teaching archives and supervising postgraduate dissertations for the University of Dundee.

In 2019 I secured a secondment to Cambridge University Library as Systems Archivist to implement a new archive management system that is now used at 30 repositories across Cambridge. In this role I enabled the successful migration of over 875,000 metadata records to the new system (some dating back to the mid 1970’s!).

Why did you apply for Fellowship?

Fellowship looked like an aspirational target for me. I wasn’t sure that I had enough high-level experience. However, the germ of an idea had formed and I explored the professional development programme website and attended a presentation by the ARA’s Chris Sheridan. In 2018 I attended Accreditation Peer Reviewer training and met Dr Charlotte Berry FARA. When I read that she had qualified as a Fellow I was inspired to think that I could make the grade, but as I was juggling my day job with my work as a Tutor I didn’t have the capacity to get started. In summer 2020 the Dundee course could not run because of COVID, so I decided to use the time to work on my application for Fellowship: it was great to have something positive to focus my energies on.

Why do you think continuing professional development is important?

There are challenges we face as professionals today, like digital preservation, that require new skills. As a long-serving archivist, I know it is especially important to find opportunities to develop and enhance my skills in order to stay relevant and meet those challenges. Since I first qualified as a registered archivist in 2000, I have found it useful to step back and reflect on my work regularly. Opportunities to learn something new or to go outside my comfort zone are always the most rewarding for me, even if they may initially seem daunting.

The job market in archives is full of good applicants. At Churchill we routinely received 90 applications for vacancies for training positions. Candidates that are proactive about their professional development will always stand out so I know that CPD will become increasingly important in future.

What do you think are the benefits of having qualified as a Fellow of the ARA?

The process of pulling together my application and the evidence to support it was enlightening. I reflected on lessons learnt, what I would do differently in future, how I learn best and what motivates me. My mentor, Charlotte Berry, challenged me to identify and articulate the contribution I had made in collaborative projects and to meet the competence levels needed for Fellowship. That was hard but ultimately very rewarding. By the time I submitted I felt, whatever the outcome, that I was glad I had put the work in because of what I had learned about myself. So qualifying as a Fellow has been the icing on the cake! I received very specific and detailed feedback on my application from the assessors which has been very instructive. Gaining ARA recognition for my career has improved my confidence and I hope it will lead to good opportunities in the future.

What advice would you offer to others thinking of enrolling and qualifying as a Fellow?

Do it! You won’t regret it. When you come to draft your competency forms remember that voluntary work and work outside the sector might also be relevant too. Find yourself a mentor, or someone from your professional network, and send them a first draft of your first couple of competency forms before you plunge into drafting them in your online application (this is not what I did, but I wish I had!).

Remember to give the assessors what they are looking for. There is some really specific guidance available for you to home in on here, especially the word counts for specific sections of the form.

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