I work professionally in an institution where the head of our department is, by his own admission, not trained in archives. I also work as a volunteer in a religious archives that has no other archivists involved. Many  readers are familiar with such situations, I am sure. For me, the biggest issue is where, ethically, must I draw the line between my responsibility to my professional training and the stakeholders in the archives (e.g. users or the records themselves) and the requirement that I follow orders. I have already learned that in both situations my superiors will make archival management decissions and force me to comply with them, regardless of my judgment, and if their decisions prove unwise, hold me accountable as the archivist. Of course, I never said life was fair.

As I watch my bosses spend money for things that have been shown to be unwise by professionals in the past, and have them ignoring my advice and that of other archivists to pursue other avenues. I try to be sure that I don’t take an “I told you so<” or a “just wait and see” attitude. I recall when I was a historian who did research on a regular basis, I still did not understand the policies and procedures of archives. Superiors in a similar situation are no less likely to be in the dark, but because they have more academic degrees, are not likely to recognize this. And those in a religious organization often fail to see the importance of saving documents in the first place, even when they regularly call upon me to produce some 40 year old record to clear up some legal or financial issue. Alas, the fact that they have authority over me or my work suggests that they know my job better. But then, what was i hired for? Why did they look for an archivist, specifically a professional one, based on the fact that there was no one in their organization who had such training or experience? Ah, it is a conundrum.

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