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Graduate Traineeship at the Parliamentary Archives – a halfway reflection

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Rhiannon our current graduate trainee reflects on her time to date with us :-

It is terrifying to think I am already halfway through my Graduate Traineeship at the Parliamentary Archives. These last six months have been a whirlwind of new friends, skills and exciting challenges and there is more yet to come.

I became interested in archives and record management whilst at university studying History. Whilst I enjoyed interpreting a variety of primary sources, my main interest stemmed from the provenance of these primary sources; where did they come from, how were they were collected, why were they organised in that particular way? I also had a part-time job at a growing retail company and saw the negative consequences of poor record management, which greatly irritated my organised and logical mind-set. These interests combined into a focus on archive and record management and I haven’t looked back since.
To become a qualified archivist you either need a Post Graduate Diploma or Masters from an accredited archive and record management course. Currently there are six universities that provide this programme; University College London, University of Liverpool, University of Glasgow, University of Dundee, Northumbria University and Aberystwyth University. The majority of these courses require you to have the equivalent of year’s work experience, so I began to look into work placements in the hope that once I had graduate I could apply for a Graduate Traineeship.

Rhiannon at work in the Act Room

I was fortunate to have gone on a variety of work experience placements whilst at university and in January 2016 was offered a two week placement at the Parliamentary Archives. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Houses of Parliament, not only because of the grandeur of the building, but also from the range of knowledge across the Parliamentary Archives team. I was able to shadow the work of the Records Management, Preservation and Access and Public Services teams. The teams were engaging and generous in their advice for pursuing a career in archives and record management. In June 2016 I applied for the Graduate Traineeship that the Parliamentary Archives offer every year and was lucky to be offered the job. Now I had the opportunity to expand and enhance the knowledge I had gained earlier in the year, in preparation for beginning my career as a qualified archivist.

These past six months has seen me experience the various facets of archives and record management. As I sit within Public Services, the main aspect of my job is to answer enquiries, supervise the search room, research exhibition topics and work on our social media outreach. I also work with Preservation and Access by cataloguing the internal transfers we receive from the various offices around the Houses of Parliament. I have assisted on quality assuring web crawls for our web archive and surveyed our Audio Visual collection. I also accession intakes that our Records Management team acquire from Record Officers around the palace, offering me the opportunity to witness our internal collection policy in action. I have found that as well as enjoying increasing public engagement with archives, I have also greatly enjoyed cataloguing and the various challenges this can bring up, including Data Protection, Freedom of Information and how cataloguing should reflect the structure of an organisation.

The Parliamentary Archive is incredibly supportive in allowing me to expand my knowledge and experience and has actively encouraged me to attend various conferences, courses and visits to other archives. The support I have received here has been overwhelming and I am very aware of how fortunate I have been to have experienced such a well-rounded traineeship. After receiving an offer from UCL and subsequently applying to the University of Dundee, I feel prepared for the master’s course, confident that what I have learnt at the Parliamentary Archives will greatly aid me.

If you are considering a career in archive and record management, then I would greatly encourage you to look out for a Graduate Traineeship. They offer the best all-round insight into the work of an archive and highlight the challenges that archive and record managers face. It is a great opportunity to pick brains within the industry and can open up to you various avenues within information management. A traineeship is a fantastic opportunity to explore the world of archives and record management and provides you with the perfect first step in becoming an archive and records manager.

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