Archivist vs Historian vs Hobbyist 3

Archivists are not historians, and historians are not archivists, yet somehow at they are both at the same time add in the “digital” world and materials – and well, you’ve got a mess on your white gloved hands! There is a sense that an archivist can not be a historian, their purpose is to sort through materials and know where it is when the superior historian comes calling for it, at least that is the perception among many academic historians. Archivists on the other hand could view themselves as the true historians, getting in to the actual history, having to know enough about a collection or an item to classify it and catalog it correctly.

When creating digital history, the two fields meet. Because there is a wealth of knowledge that can be kept in one place, the historian can cultivate their own archive. Kate Theimer, discusses this in her blog. Before historians collected materials and upon project completion or retirement, archivists would weed through the collection and create a “real” archive of the materials. In the digital age, historians are able to do this themselves, cutting out archivist. But the archivist is still needed. Historians specialize in analysis of primary sources, archivists specialize in preserving and making the sources searchable to the masses.

My project also addresses the hobbyist, allowing people to upload their own personal archives. The things they don’t want to hand over to a stranger. The cultivation of public information is something that should be done by an archivist, however it is useful for historians.


Speaking of my project, this blog post is probably rambling because I have spent a majority of the weekend trying to get Omeka plug-ins to work. I am frustrated and spent most of today yelling at the computer about “FTP’s” and “why can’t everything be one click”  I have everything ready to upload, but I don’t want to do the same work twice. Until I can get the Library of Congress metadata working, I would be guessing at how to correctly label things.  Which I guess brings this full circle. I am not an archivist I feel like an archivist would have a much better grasp on metadata than I thought I did.

Apologies for the rambling, I am going to close the laptop for a bit in an attempt to refocus before class tomorrow.



3 thoughts on “Archivist vs Historian vs Hobbyist

  • Lacey

    I like how you brought up the topic of whether or not archivists are historians. Personally, I think it is possible for an archivist to be a historian and for an archivist to not be one. I think this distinction will greatly depend on what can of archive they are working with, how involved they are with it (do they actually know the collections well enough to be called a historian or do they look at a finding aid and say “It’s somewhere over there.”?), and how dependent they are on their tools (finding aids whether digital or analog). I expect most archivists to be more knowledgeable about the collections they look over, but possibly we can only consider archivists with years of experience historians as well?

    Also, good luck with the metadata! I think if this project were to only teach all of us one thing it is how much of a pain metadata can be!

  • Jenna Scholz

    Danielle, I like how you differentiated between archivists and historians, as preservers and organizers of historical sources vs historians as the analyzers of those sources. It makes sense to analyse a topic, historians need to pull resources from different collections and organize them by groups.

  • Dale Dunn

    Thanks for the clarifications on the roles of historian and archivist. You have at least started to move from concept to reality with your project!

Comments are closed.