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Archives & Records Management Pathway

Alum Ken Wise, Smokey Mountains Archivist

Archivists and records managers are responsible for the long-term care of documentary materials. These materials may be, “characterized as “records,” “personal papers,” or “artificial collections” on the basis of who created and maintained the documents and for what purpose” (Daniels,1984, para. 3). These documentary materials may be acquired through legal mandates, such as the Federal Records Act of 1950, or based on institutional regulations and collecting policies. Work in archives and records management takes place in a variety of settings, including governmental agencies at the national, regional or local levels;colleges and universities; museums and other cultural heritage institutions;other non-profit or non-governmental agencies,such as churches;and corporations. Preparing for work in archives or records management necessitates knowledge of the nature and function of documentary materials and the history, ethics and values of the profession. It also requires understanding of essential core archival competencies, including: selection, appraisal, and acquisition; arrangement and description; preservation; reference and access; outreach, instruction, and advocacy; management and administration; records and information management; and digital materials management” (SAA, 2016).


Professional Work in Archives and Records Management: Position Titles and Descriptions

Titles and responsibilities for information professionals working in archives and records management vary. Examples are provided below, derived from real-world job vacancy postings. For more position titles and job requirements, consult job posting services, including SAA Careers Jobs; ALA JobList; and I Need a Library Job.

  • University Archivists are primarily involved with collecting and caring for all documentary materials pertaining to the official administrative activities of their institution.
  • Processing Archivists are typically responsible for arranging, describing, and making accessible collections of papers, artifacts, and other materials within an institution’s holdings. This includes creating archival standards-compliant documentation such as inventories and finding aids in support of discovery.
  • Assistant Directors of University Archives and Special Collection stake on more administrative responsibilities.While most Director positions require several years of archival work experience in addition to a Master’s degree (or even a doctorate degree),Assistant Director positions maybe filled by recent graduates, provided they have background experience in archival settings. Assistant Directors aid in improving access to collections as well as planning, scheduling and executing exhibitions.
  • Digital Archivists are concerned with creating and managing digital collections of reformatted print, manuscript, and born-digital archival materials. This is done through keeping current on best practices and standards, as well as developing and maintaining polices, procedures and workflows that implement these practices. It also involves ensuring that necessary computing hardware and software for storing, preserving and presenting digitally archived materials is intact and functioning properly.
  • Reference Archivists are primarily involved with helping users and researchers identify and access materials from an institution’s holdings. This is done through conducting reference interviews both in person and remotely, such as via email or online chat. Additionally, reference archivists may be responsible for creating subjector topical guides for their institution’s holdings, and perform other duties to aid researchers, including providing instruction.
  • Records Managers are typically employed by corporations to administer records management activities throughout therecords’ life cycle. This includes developing and administering file management directives and retention schedules; securely maintaining active and inactive records; and disposing of records. Other terms used to refer to similar positions include Records Analyst and Records Officer.

Preparing to Enter the Profession:

Professional Development:

Suggested Associations:


    • SAA Annual Meeting (held annually in conjunction with the NAGARA Annual Conference and CoSA Annual Meeting)
    • AMIA Annual Meeting
    • ARMA InfoCon Annual Conference
    • AASLH Annual Meeting
    • Society of Tennessee Archivists Annual Meeting

Suggested Serials:

    • American Archivist
    • Archival Issues
    • Archivaria
    • ARMA Magazine
    • Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals
    • Moving Image Journal
    • Records Management Journal


Recommended SIS Courses (INSC):
In addition to completing the courses required for the MSIS degree, students with an interest in archives and records management might consider enrolling in these courses (please note that this listing is not a substitute for consulting with yourMSIS Program Academic Advisor).Also, be aware that theserecommendations are informed by the Society of American Archivists’ (2016) Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies.


    • 524 Metadata
    • 562 Digital Curation
    • 564 Archives and Records Management


    • 504 Research Methods in Information Sciences
    • 550 Management of Information Organizations
    • 559 Grant Development for Information Professionals
    • 560 Development and Management of Collections
    • 599 Practicum

Real-World Experience:

Practicum Settings:

Work in archives and records management takes place in a variety of settings, including archives, museums, cultural heritage organizations, businesses, government agencies, and academic, research and special libraries. See the SIS Practicum Webpage for more information on current practicum opportunities: Examples of recent practicum placements in archives and records management include:

  • Knox County Government Archives at the East Tennessee History Center
  • Tennessee State Library and Archives
  • Blacks in Appalachia Project, East Tennessee PBS
  • Knoxville Jewish Alliance Archives
  • Special Collections, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library
  • Alvin M. Wienberg Papers Collection, Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge
  • Archives and Records Center, City of Alexandria (VA)

Select Placements of UTK-SIS Alumni:

  • University Archivist at a university in the south
  • Archivist at a state library and archive in the south
  • Reference Archivist at a historical society in the south
  • Archivist and Photographer at a performing arts organization in the south
  • Museum Archivist at a federal agency in the south
  • County Archivist and Records Manager at a regional government agency in the south
  • Head of Archives and Special Collections at a university in the midwest
  • Manuscript Archivist at a university in the south
  • Research and Records Specialist at a non-profit organization in the west
  • Records Analyst at a national laboratory in the south
  • Records Specialist at a records management consulting firm in the south



Daniels, M.F. (1984). Archives and records management resources. College Park, MD: NARA. Retrieved from

Society of American Archivists (SAA). (2016, December 14). GPAS curriculum. In Guidelines for a graduate program in archival studies. Retrieved from