Archival Studies Degrees

Archives play a critical role in many areas of society. They are repositories of unique records, documents, and other texts. They serve as fundamental tools for the development of a rich understanding of cultural, political, and social forces, the dissemination and preservation of historical memory, and social accountability in an ever-increasing digital and networked world.

The area of specialization covers traditional manuscripts and archive practice and theory as well as addressing the dramatic archival field expansion. It charts the way accelerating technological developments change in forms and methods for disseminating and preserving records.

Archival Studies Programs

Archival studies respond to shifting political and social conditions as well as increased archival practice codification through international and local standard developments. It actively engages in debates about societal roles and archival theory in diverse cultural and archival jurisdictions.

The specialization is comprised of opportunities, experiential components, and a range of courses. Archival studies are increasingly connected to knowledge management and library education.

The focus is on managing records in electronic and paper formats by using systems that facilitate legal compliance, decision making, and institutional record-keeping. Archival studies seek to improve methods for appraisal, storage, preservation, and cataloging of recorded materials.

What Is this Archiving and Archival Studies?

The Archival Studies area includes managing historical records in archives by the processes of acquiring, appraising, arranging, describing, and preserving as well as handling the inventory, classification, and retention of existing organizational records.

There is not a universal set of standards or laws that govern the mission or form of archival institutions. The mandates, functions, and forms of archival institutions and programs tend to differ based on the objectives of those who control the archives, the nature of the society where they exist, and on geographical language and location.

Current standards provided by DIRK, ISO, and ICO standards act as guidelines for archives to adapt and follow in ways that best suit their needs.

After computer technology was introduced in archival repositories in the 1970s, archivists became aware of the increasing need to develop descriptive practice common standards to facilitate disseminating archival descriptive information. Archival studies focus on curating and building archives that house, historical sound and video recordings, analog film, rare manuscripts, diaries, photographs, documents, and other media. The archival process requires appraisal and authentication of materials and developing a system to classify, record, organize, and access materials.

Online Programs for Archival Studies

There are exceptional online programs that prepare professionals for careers in collecting archives, businesses, and government. The programs emphasize electronic records and digital archives. They offer more in-depth study than public history, information science, or library programs.

The programs are innovative blends of information technology and traditional archival knowledge that respond to the needs of professionals to understand contemporary record-keeping systems and records. Graduates are successful archivists committed to curating trustworthy, comprehensive collections that deserve long-term preservation.

They are grounded in practical skills and theoretical knowledge of archives. Graduates understand technology's impact on the profession and have the skills and expertise to manage digital information and work with information technologists. They learn to work in an environment that is rapidly changing, finding innovative solutions to digital archives challenges. Graduates master archival functions of description and appraisal; description and arrangement; access and reference; and outreach, preservation, and management of all formats of records, notably digital formats, in compliance with professional ethics, law, and best practices. The outcomes are achieved through a combination of lecture, discussion, experiential labs and internships, and research and reports.

Sample Universities with this Online Program

The following are schools that offer Archival Studies.

Clayton State University – The school offers a Master of Archival Studies that is entirely online, which allows students to attend from any place in the world. Students participate in live, weekly interactive web lectures. They participate in online discussions with other students and the instructor. Practicing archivists are welcome to take courses to keep their skills and knowledge current. Students receive a well-rounded education in archival practice and theory.

University of Arizona – A Graduate Certificate in Archival Studies is offered by the university. It gives students a solid basis in the knowledge of archives and the records management profession. The curriculum is built around the Society of American Archivists’ guidelines for graduate programs, ensuring students are competitive for jobs in institutions possessing archival collections. The Certificate provides graduate students of other degree programs an opportunity to learn how archival practices affect the meaning and composition of historical records and cultural artifacts. It offers advanced continued education opportunities for library and archive practitioners.

Typical Coursework for this Degree

Suggested courses for an Archival Studies degree, and the topics discussed in each, include the following.

Archival Principles & Practices
Topics for this course include:

  • Methodology and implementation
  • Archives-related professions
  • Legal issues
  • Fund raising
  • Advocacy programs
  • Ethics
  • Financial and legal systems
  • Social and cultural systems
  • Reference and access
  • Preservation
  • Description
  • Arrangement
  • Appraisal
  • Acquisition
  • Authentic record-keeping systems
  • Cultural memory
  • History of archives
  • Records life cycle

Archival Description & Access
Advanced practice and theories of archival description, arrangement, and appraisal, including and creating access tools to archival collections and records that include selecting and applying management tools, metadata schemes, appropriate archival descriptive standards, and outreach programs that include creating and disseminating aids

Preservation Management
Practices and principles for physical and intellectual preservation of cultural heritage and historical materials in all forms to assure continued accessibility and their durability through selective, digitization, conservation, migration, preservation strategies and management, and ongoing evaluation

Digital Curation
The value-add management and life cycle for future access, use, and re-use addresses practices, principles and strategies of Digital preservation

  • File formats
  • Metadata
  • Trusted digital repositories
  • Digital curation at data centers, museums, libraries, archives, and other institutions of heritage

Enterprise Content Management
Management of content in digital form relating to an organization’s operational process for decision-making, governance, and compliance purposes addresses tools, methods, strategies and principles used in content life cycle management that include:

  • Capture
  • Classification
  • Metadata
  • Workflow
  • Collaboration
  • Preservation
  • Delivery

Specific Scholarships

The Society of American Archivist Fellow, F. Gerald Ham, and his wife established the F. Gerald Ham and Elsie Ham Scholarship to provide financial support to professional archival studies program students. Criteria for the award include the applicant’s past performance in an archival studies graduate program and a faculty member’s assessment of the applicant’s prospects for contributing to the archival profession. It is a merit-based award.

The Mosaic Scholarship provides mentoring and financial support to students of color who pursue archival science graduate education. It encourages students to pursue an archivist career and promotes the American archives’ professional diversification. It is given to applicants demonstrating the potential for personal and academic achievement and manifesting a commitment to the archival profession and advancing its diversity concerns.

Top Organizations to Know

Some archivist associations that seek to foster professional and study development are:

The Association of Moving Image Archivists is an organization established for the advancement of the field of moving image archiving. It fosters cooperation among organizations and individuals concerned with acquiring, describing, preserving, exhibiting, and using moving image materials.

ARMA International is a not-for-profit association for information professionals, mainly information management and governance and related industry vendors and practitioners. The association provides educational publications and opportunities that cover all aspects of information management. It is known worldwide for its guidelines and standards.

The Academy of Certified Archivists was founded in 1989 at the Society of American Archivists’ annual meeting. It is a nonprofit, independent professional archivist certifying organization. Individual members meet a series of defined professional standards to qualify for certification.

The Council of State Archivists is a national organization comprised of individuals who serve as principal archival agencies directors in each territorial and state government. Under National Historical Publications and Records Commission regulations, the directors serve as the State Historical Record Coordinators who chair the State Historical Record Advisory Board of their respective states.

Career Options with this Degree

Records managers and archivists work in a variety of settings including non-profit organizations, religious organization, universities and colleges, corporations, government records and information services, and cultural heritage institutions. Job titles include:

  • Archivists
  • Computer System Managers
  • Digital Resources Managers
  • Forms Managers
  • Information Managers
  • Manuscript Curators
  • Preservation Librarians
  • Records Analysts
  • Records Center Supervisor
  • Record Managers
  • Reports Managers
  • Special Collection Librarian