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How Do I Become a Film Archivist?

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  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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To become a film archivist, a person is usually expected to earn an undergraduate degree prior to seeking a job. While the academic field does not necessarily matter, most employers prefer a master's degree in addition to the bachelor's, often in the area of library science, history, or film. Film archivists can further demonstrate their expertise and increase their chances of getting a better job by earning official certification. It is common to get a position with a museum, a library, or another type of historical location. Typically, film archivist jobs require advanced knowledge about caring for and storing rare items, along with the technical expertise necessary to work with modern data storage systems.

A film archivist, also known as a motion picture archivist, preserves and maintains film collections for a particular group or agency. The films may be stored for protection or publicly displayed, often for educational and entertainment purposes. In the US, many archivists work for the government or for educational institutions. Jobs are available at a variety of archival repositories, and the unique skills and experience required usually depend on the position.

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To gain the necessary skills to become a film archivist, you should obtain at least an undergraduate degree. Archivists have backgrounds in various fields, but studying archival science, including preservation techniques, is usually considered standard practice for someone who wants to become a film archivist. A master's degree or higher is often required, and there a number of archival studies programs available. A practicum, or hands-on experience, is also valuable; many entry-level archivists gain experience by working in archives or a museum, for instance.

In addition to having good research abilities and analytical skills, you usually must also have a range of technical knowledge, such as knowing how to transfer film data to DVDs or other media formats. Most film archivists use computers for data storage and record keeping, and they must keep up with constantly changing technology. Someone who aspires to become a film archivist might encounter some competition for available jobs, and having the ability to stay current with techniques for managing electronic records can be an advantage.

Voluntary certification can also help you become a film archivist. Typically, becoming certified requires a master's degree and at least one year of practical experience, after which you can earn certification by passing a written exam. You might need to renew your credentials periodically, which can usually be accomplished by taking advantage of continuing education opportunities. For certain types of collections, it also helps to be familiar with the subject matter, whether it is law, history, or medicine.

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