How Do I Become an Industrial Archaeologist?

Britt Archer

Archaeologists uncover items from the past and try to place them in the proper societal context as well as preserve them. Industrial archaeologists work in a specialized capacity to discover, understand and preserve artifacts relating to industry and manufacturing. Factories, manufacturing plants, mining operations, commercial ships, and harbors are just some of the sites that industrial archaeologists work with. In order to become an industrial archaeologist, you must have a passion for the past and the proper training and credentials to work in the field.

An industrial archaeologist is responsible for preserving the remains of earlier industrial sites.
An industrial archaeologist is responsible for preserving the remains of earlier industrial sites.

Becoming an industrial archaeologist starts with training. Like other social scientists, industrial archaeologists must complete at least four years of higher education to obtain work within the field. Industrial archaeologist training is based in history and science. In many cases a post-graduate degree such as a doctorate is required to become an industrial archaeologist.

Education doesn't cease once you become an industrial archaeologist. New technology is always emerging and being used in the field. New ways of mapping sites, cataloging artifacts and examining data are continually developed. While learning new technology isn't one of the basic industrial archaeologist requirements, it may be necessary to learn new skills with each job or assignment you take.

Industrial archaeologist duties vary little from job to job. An industrial archaeologist working with a private firm performs similar duties to an archaeologist working with the government. Research is one of the main duties of an industrial archaeologist: gathering facts and history about a historical site prior to actually visiting or excavating it. Fieldwork takes place after research and can be physically demanding, depending upon the site and the availability of the artifacts. Most industrial archaeologists keep regular office hours, though extra time is usually required during the later stages of a project.

Industrial sites of the past didn't utilize the same safety and health standards that modern industrial sites are required to adhere to. Industrial archaeologists may be exposed to hazardous materials or unsafe buildings as a result of this difference in safety standards. Proper research prior to excavating a site limits the safety hazards for industrial archaeologists and their teams, but unexpected situations sometimes occur. Despite the rigorous training demands and potential health hazards of a career in industrial archeology, it is a relatively safe field with job security and growth. A person looking to become an industrial archaeologist will be able to find work as the world continues to develop and landscapes continue to change.

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