For this week’s blog post I thought I would introduce myself to you all as the new Archivist at the Royal Asiatic Society and my background in getting to where I am now.
Stepping into the world of archives:
After completing a degree in Modern and International History, I was unsure of what I wanted to do as a career. Most of my friends had pursued teaching but following a period of volunteering in a school I knew that this was not for me. I loved visiting museums and libraries in my spare time but was unsure how I could make this into a career for myself. However, as part of my undergraduate dissertation I consulted the collections at Wolverhampton Archives and I found myself curious to learn about how the various collections are stored there and how they had come to be apart of the archive. Prior to this I had little understanding of how an archive works or what even an “archivist” was.
With lots of spare time on my hands after graduation, I applied to volunteer at the archives two days a week. This introduced me to archival concepts that were alien to me including “original order,” “fonds” (a group of documents that share the same origin) and “finding aids.” Volunteering at the archives exceeded all my expectations and I knew from this that I wanted to take the plunge and become and archivist.
From a village to the big city:
The next stage of my career coincided with a move to London. Having been living in a village my whole life this was a big step and it took a length of time getting used to a much faster paced way of living. However, I was excited to explore the range of cultural institutions that London has to offer and to pursue my passion of becoming an archivist. I volunteered at both BT Archives and Islington Local History Centre. Staff from both institutions were extremely helpful in providing me with experience which would allow me to start applying for archival traineeships and I was introduced to other new professionals who were also starting out in their archival careers.
A couple of months into my volunteering I saw a post advertised at Wellcome Collection for an Archives Trainee. This would involve working at the collection whilst also completing a masters in Archives and Records Management at UCL. After passing through a tricky video interview, I secured the position with the traineeship providing me with the opportunity to work across a range of diverse collections and different teams.
Fast forward three years (and lots of cups of coffee) I am now a qualified archivist having finally submitted my master’s thesis. Whilst knowing that I still have much more to learn as a new professional, I was ready to push myself and to progress from being a trainee.
Enter The Royal Asiatic Society:
I was very excited to secure the role of archivist at the Royal Asiatic Society as the role provides the perfect opportunity to progress within my career and I was impressed by the exciting work that has already been done across the society to promote engagement with the collections that are held. I admit I know very little about Asian history but my experiences at Wellcome provided me with the opportunity to engage with an array of Asian manuscripts and I was fascinated by the visual imagery of many of these items. I am also eager to learn more about how we can make these items as accessible as possible (particularly when these manuscripts are published in a variety of different languages).
As you can imagine with any new role, my first couple of weeks have consisted of trying to digest as much new information as possible (alarm codes have proved the biggest challenge!) A highlight has been learning about some of the amazing collections that are held at the society and the stories behind these. My first cataloguing project will involve making accessible papers related to the Oriental Translation Fund. This was established in 1828 to fund published translations of Asian manuscripts. More will be revealed about this in a future blog post.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff at the society and the previous Archivist, Nancy Charley for giving me this opportunity and being so welcoming during my first couple of weeks at the society.