Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Truth is I Know Nothing

Last week was the dawn of my MSc course (I still cannot believe I am doing a course that is considered a Master of Science. My Chemistry teacher from 10 years ago would be pissing herself laughing). And it's bloody hard. Already I can think of at least 4 presentations I need to prepare or 'leading the discussion'. Why does the discussion have to be on ISAD(G) and not the contents of last night's Hollyoaks? Joking aside and to repeat my above point: it's bloody hard.

Apparently postgraduate teaching relies on discussion from the students (which must be a bit cheeky for those students who have forked out almost £4, 000 for fees alone) and this has been the basis of this week's classes. Despite working for a year in an archive, I am coming to the conclusion I know nothing. Well, nothing about the theory of archives. Point me at a pile of boxes and tell me to go box list, I will go box list. Ask me to tell you about the theoretical approach to this? Nah, can't do that mate.

Yes, we need to be taught theory. Understanding the theory allows us, as records managers, archivists and so on, to make the weighty decision of deciding which records are to be preserved for the "historians of tomorrow". And it is a tough decision to make. Some decisions are easy such as chucking out bank statements, junk mail (that actually comes through a physical and not a digital letterbox) and other rubbish. It is a common occurrence for someone to be clearing out their house, decide to donate to an archive and dumping a lot of rubbish into the boxes. Though I did make a nice sweep of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles badges which were going in the bin.

But, cynically, I can't help wondering about the practicalities of the job. In the first archive I volunteered in, the archives team was very small and the Archivist had a lot of other tasks lumped onto their daily 'to do list'. Worrying about theory can come to second when faced with the physical job. One fellow student worked for a corporate archive, whose first and foremost role is to serve the company, and remembers the entire office dropping everything one day to retrieve records for the CEO who wanted them like yesterday.

This is the job I want to do. Despite lacking tidy skills in my domestic life, there is a sense of achievement following the cataloguing process from start to finish. There is a cataloguing placement in a couple of weeks time and I'm looking forward to it. One option may involve getting the hell out of Dodge Glasgow for a bit and that's an attractive solution.

Enough naval gazing. Despite not having classes until Monday, there's still a hellva lot to do.


gw said...

I'm sure you'll get used to the workload - my course hasn't really got going yet but I have noticed a stark contrast between classes in terms of the preparation they expect.

We should have a natter to compare Master's at some point.

The cost... ah the cost. It's especially cheeky for those on my course from outside the EEA and Switzerland, who are shelling out £11,000 for an LLM or MSc (plus Edinburgh living costs of course).

A Woman with an Opinion said...

Indeed, a Masters comparison chat shall be welcome indeed.