Publication Date



Archives, Digital, Motivations


Why do people become archivists? Historically (and anecdotally) it was a deep love of musty, old records that drew people to the profession. While there have been many other motivating forces that inspired would-be archivists, it is most often that one hears of people seeking jobs in archives for love of “the stuff,” as evidenced in Kate Thiemer’s blog post, Honest tips for wannabe archivists (2012).

As a result of the continually advancing presence of digitized and born digital archival collections, the physical nature of archival “stuff” is changing. While there remains the physical imprint of digital information on floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, hard drives, and old computers; the aspects of these physical artifacts might not evoke the same visceral pull to the profession as musty, raspy, paper-based documents. In light of this shift in physical presentation of information, we are faced with the question: how does love of archival “stuff” translate to work in digital archives? What is and/or will be the pull to become a digital archivist?

To answer these questions, we will perform a survey-based study where we will invite archivists who work with both traditional and digital archival material to answer questions related to the aspects of their work that inspired or motivated them to join the profession. What motivates people to become archivists? What aspects of digital archives do or can potentially motivate people to seek out a career as an archivist? What, if any, motivational factors for becoming a traditional archivist are the same as those for becoming a digital archivist? What, if any, motivational factors for becoming a traditional archivist are different from those for becoming a digital archivist?

By answering these questions, we hope to expand the archival discussion on what it means to be an archivist in the digital age. What compelling intrinsic, evidential, or informational values are present in digital archival content that will draw professionals to the field? Are there other values inherent in digital content that are currently unexplored? In our poster, we will present our discussion of the topic, our survey design, and results we have at the time of the Institute.

Thiemer, K. (2012). Honest tips for wannabe archivists. Archivesnext blog. Retrieved from