This post is from Erik R. Bauer. Erik is chair of the Local History Roundtable (New England Archivists) and has served as an SAA mentor. Before leaving New England, Erik worked at the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody, MA; Haverhill Public Library (Haverhill, MA) as their archives manager; and as project archivist for the Peabody City Clerk’s Office (Peabody, MA).
Erik is still a visiting lecturer of history at Salem State University in Salem, MA, teaching remotely. Prior to becoming an archivist Erik worked as an inventory control specialist at an Apple retail store in Los Angeles, as a substitute teacher at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, and served two years in the AmeriCorps in Athens, Ohio teaching literacy skills to first graders.
Erik currently lives in western Washington with his family and cat, Chester Copperpot. Erik is originally from the Chicago area.
Erik, how did you become interested in this field, and how did you begin your career?
I like to say that I am an “accidental archivist” because I have done things backwards. While working towards my MA in history from Salem State University I was interested in becoming a museum registrar. However, during an internship at the Nahant Historical Society I inventoried Selectmen records and this experience shifted my interest. Sifting through the past brought history to life in a tangible way for me.
From there, I learned about archives from professional articles and took as many workshops as I could. I have worked as an archivist in public libraries for almost 8 years and this Spring, I completed my MLIS with a concentration in archival studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Since 2017, I have been teaching an undergraduate Introduction to Archives course at Salem State University.
What education, skills, and training have been essential to your success in this field?
My diverse educational background and love of learning has helped me find success in the archival field. Over the past eight years, I have taken a wide variety of workshops and webinars on topics like disaster planning, grant writing, exhibit planning, pest management, and active learning. I integrated the learnings from many of these workshops directly into my work. The disaster planning workshop, for example, informed the changes that I made to improve the collection at the Peabody Institute Library, as well as updating their disaster policy.
In a prior life, I worked retail, and the customer service and inventory management skills that I developed there have served me well in the archival profession.
While earning my MLIS, I challenged myself and took courses that I could transfer to many positions, such as information literacy. I also took courses on topics that I was familiar with in order to better understand the methodology and theories, such as appraisal and arrangement and description. I also have an MA in humanities from Mt. St. Mary’s University, Los Angeles and an MA in history from Salem State University.
What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job (or field)?
Most importantly: find a mentor. I have been fortunate to have several incredible mentors who helped and supported me early in my career. It was through those mentorships that I grew as an archivist and learned to be a leader and to become a better manager.
The other piece of advice is the importance of being active within the profession. Several of the opportunities that I have had came from networking at professional events. When I would go to the New England Archivists meetings, I not only looked forward to seeing friends, but to learn from others’ experience in between sessions.
If you could start all over again, would you change your career path in any way? Why?
I enjoy being an archivist and would not change my career path. However, the one thing I would do differently is to have completed at least a couple more archival internships before looking for work. The reason is for a long time I was self taught and I could have benefited from gaining some additional experience to better understand the role and responsibilities that archivists have, but I have learned a great deal from the experiences that I have had.