Does programming play a role in the archivist profession?

I am trying to retrain to become an archivist. I am wondering, which role programming can play in this field?
Are there any people who are working/worked in this field? Which parts of programming can be useful? I am not sure, how to imagine the work as an archivist concretely, and as digitalisation is playing a huge role, it sound like programming could be pretty useful…?
I am new in programming and starting from the very beginning, but very interested :slight_smile:

thanks, and greetings

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Oh, cool! I think it’s a really important job.

What kind of materials are you interested in archiving? Art? Photographs? Documents/texts? Film? Do you know any programming languages?

So, are you interested in the storage, or reference and access to archived materials? I would think that how users/public interact with archives is one element, so UX would be a skill to learn. As would information architecture–if you’re interested in storing, organizing, labeling data. So, data modeling, storage–SQL, Python, and software engineering.

If you haven’t already looked, here are some on places to begin:

  • National Archives

  • SAA (Society of American Archivists) In particular, their breakdown of curriculum.

  • data modeling and information architecure

  • data storage

I hope that helps(?).


thank you so much for your quick answer, this sounds really interesting and is very helpful for structuring my thoughts!
As I am a beginner in programming as well as archives (studied human geography), there are many terms I don´t know yet, so I have to figure out what it means.

I am interested in archiving documents/texts as well es photographs, but I think I wouldn´t exclude other things like films for example. I am interested in history of politics and society, for example politics of remembrance, and everyday life as well as urban history. But also quite open to other directions.

To the other question, I don´t now yet, if I am interested in storage or reference and access. I think all of them are important and interesting and I´ll have to try how it works out :slight_smile:

Do you have a background an an archivist, or something similiar? I am so curious in everything related to this field at the moment :slight_smile:

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Library science might be something to look into as well–for cataloging, organizing data.
For photography take a look at ICP here in NYC and places like the Museum of the City of NY and the U.S. Library of Congress (or in your own local city). Might be worth it to look at how The Met has digitized and organized its collection, accessible via their API and here.

Nope, I don’t have a background in archives. I think it’s fascinating from a cultural anthropological and ethnography viewpoint as well. One of my favorite podcasts is from the non profit StoryCorps, which archives (at the Library of Congress) peoples’ varied & similar personal histories & preserving memories and events of people in the U.S. My ed. background is sociology–race, ethnicity, class, gender, social inequality, and theory. But, I also learned how to code to complement that (python, data analysis/science).

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Oh nice, thank you! These are really good starting points for getting an overview, and really motivating! Probably starting to learn Python now!
I think so, too! I am also interested in questions of whose stories are being told, whose are not, and so on, and I also did ethnographic research a while ago. It is really nice to see that it makes sense to combine those things. So the podcast sound really interesting as well!!

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If you wanted to make a website for all the archived things (like paintings, clay models, old newspapers, etc…) then learning programming would help a lot! I think there’s sites that build a website for you already though, and I’m not sure myself if you actually need to know programming to do this.

Regardless, learning programming can be fun in it’s own right, and could help you in the future. As you said, everything is becoming more digital, so knowing programming is becoming more important!

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