Open Spaces: The Lone Arranger: What It Takes to be an Archivist

The Lone Arranger: What It Takes to be an Archivist

What does it take to be an archivest? One volunteer shares her tale this week.

By Emily Venemon

I never thought I would end up working for an organization like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, let alone being allowed to travel to places like Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Talk about a change of scenery! I spent my first week on Midway Atoll NWR feeling like I was in a strange (but pleasant!) dream. The sheer volume of and accessibility to wildlife there is overwhelmingly amazing. It is beautiful, but also heartbreaking. Life and death are equally visible.

emily_beachEmily on the beach. (Photo: USFWS)

One day a volunteer pointed out to me an adorable Red-tailed tropicbird chick tucked up underneath its parent. A few minutes later she showed me a Laysan duck that had died of avian botulism. I loved watching the albatross chicks flap their wings; I wanted all of them to grow up healthy and fly out to sea. Every day I saw birds that had died of dehydration, plastic ingestion, and other maladies, however. On Midway Atoll NWR, the struggle for life in the face of natural and man-made adversities is present in a way I have never seen anywhere else.

Working for the Service has been an interesting challenge so far. Being a “lone arranger” (as they call it in the archives field) has been somewhat difficult. There have been many times when I have felt lost and overwhelmed because of the volume, disorder, and unfamiliarity of the records I work with.

In some ways, the missions of records professionals and the Service are linked through the need for preservation. One of the primary duties of archivists and records managers is to preserve what is important from the past so that that information can be accessible in the future.

Emily Venemon is a volunteer intern in Honolulu, HI with the Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuges and Monuments Complex. Read her full story on our USFWS Pacific Region's Tumblr.

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Last updated: June 21, 2012