A 26-year-old Oxford graduate has been selected to receive the Bruynzeel CILIP bursary 2016 to attend this year’s Rare Books and Special Collections Conference.
Samantha Smart, who currently works as an archivist at the National Records of Scotland, graduated from Oxford University in 2012.
But it was not until her postgraduate masters at York, studying 19th Century literature, that her interest in archives and special collections began to develop.
“While I was working on my masters dissertation, I was accessing a lot of archive materials,” said Sam. “I was getting the rewards from doing the research, but I was also curious to see what it would be like on the other side of the desk, as it were.”
Her career plans led initially to a trainee post at the Unilever Archives, based in Port Sunlight on the Wirral, as well as stints at HarperCollins and Network Rail. Although working in corporate archives was rewarding, Sam soon realised that in order to round out her experience as an archivist she would need to look for work in a public setting: “I actually enjoyed working in the corporate sector and would be happy to work in a business archive again. But I wasn’t interacting directly with the public and I really wanted the experience of working in a busy search room,” she said.
Returning to her native Scotland, Sam secured a year’s traineeship at National Records of Scotland, which developed into the archivist post she currently holds. It is, she says, a role that plays to her desire to share the rich resources of an archive with the public.
“I’m interested in changing the sorts of things that are collected to reflect the widest possible section of society – including those who are often under-represented in archive collections,” said Sam. “For example the collection of printed ephemera – posters, postcards, advertisements – the things that reflect everyday practices, the things that shape people’s lives but you wouldn’t necessarily think of as valuable archive material.”
Documenting everyday experiences
Securing the Bruynzeel bursary to attend this year’s CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections Conference is, said Sam, a great opportunity to expand her knowledge and get a sense of what’s happening in archives across the country. “Over the next year, I will be completing a dissertation on the collection and management of archival material that documents the everyday, so I am keen to hear the conference papers on audience development at the Mass Observation Archive,” said Sam. “The Mass Observation Archive is a fascinating project, capturing many stories that would not otherwise be saved.”
Sam will be blogging for Bruynzeel from the Rare Books and Special Collections Group Conference, which takes place in Liverpool from 7-9 September.