How long have you been working at PROV? Since November 2011.
What is your role at PROV? We work in the Access Services branch as Access Services Officers (ASO). Our primary role is to provide access to the PROV collection, both to the public and state government employees.
How did you get into your current role? I studied history at Monash University and was always interested in finding a role which allowed me to work closely with historical collections.
Why did you want to work at PROV? I had previously used translated European government records for a number of essays I had written at university. I knew that although government records seem dry, they are actually important primary documents that can reveal fascinating insights. One of my university friends had completed her work experience at PROV and suggested it to me as a great place to gain experience in working with historical collections.
From when you arrive at the Victorian Archives Centre in the morning until you leave in the evening, what does a typical day look like? I start the day by retrieving original records, which will be viewed by visitors in the Reading Room of the Victorian Archives Centre. Once the records retrieval process is complete, the rest of my day depends on which area I am rostered in for the day. I could be answering research queries, working in the Reading Room with members of the public, returning records, completing project work etc. There are a number of processes and services that I undertake throughout the working day so it is very much a varied role. I’m often on my feet, working in different areas of the Victorian Archives Centre building.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your role? The most enjoyable aspect of my role is having the opportunity to complete historical research and share interesting content with the public about the history of Victoria.
What has been your favourite project to work on? I completed some research on the Female Carlton Refuge, a non-government charitable institution established in 1857. It was really interesting to see how PROV’s records showed the historical stages of the physical site, whilst also shedding light on the experiences of unwed mothers in the social and religious contexts of 19th and 20th century Melbourne.
What are the most important skills in your role? Which do you use every day? The most important skills are attention to detail and good communication skills. Archival research can be very difficult and my role often involves explaining complex information to people who have just started their research journey. To be an ASO you need to be able to effectively communicate the steps (and unexpected challenges!) researchers can come across when looking for a particular record or piece of information.
What advice would you give to someone entering the field? What type of background would be most helpful? A background in information/records management, conservation, cultural heritage or history would be helpful for anyone interested in entering the archival collection sector.