I am Holly Fairhall. I am 25 years old. I am Mum to Poppy Valentine who is 2 years old. I love history and technology so I want to be a digital archivist but so do lots and lots of other people. I want to meet other aspiring techies/ archivists because all my friends want to get into FASHION (and because I want to know who I am up against). I live in London. I am generally a happy person.


20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rachel
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 09:39:32

    Hi Holly,

    I’m currently in my final year at university and hoping to move into archiving in the future (or perhaps record management…we’ll see). It’ll be great to hear about any progress you make as so far from the investigative work i’ve done, finding a job is going to be fairly tricky!…

    Best of luck!



  2. Georgie
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 12:07:43

    I think you might be up against people like me. I’ve been trying to break in to the world of archives for a couple of years now. I’ve volunteered here there and everywhere, filing boxes full of index cards, looking for books that don’t even exist … the list goes on. I feel however that I may be about to give up completely. I can’t afford to do any more volunteering (especially in London) so will have to find some other exciting new path. Unless you have a glimmer of hope?


  3. Laura
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 14:29:41

    Hi ladies
    Your main aim for breaking in to the world of archiving should be trying to get on a postgraduate archives and/or records management course. That is the only way you will become qualified in the profession. You have to have experience of working in the sector before you apply but it sounds like you are all doing that at the moment with voluntary opportunities. The other route is to apply for paid traineeships at various institutions. These are often advertised on the archives-nra jiscmail listserv (another resource you should definitely tap in to if you haven’t already). In applications for traineeships and courses, I would strongly suggest doing some background reading about the profession so that you have a good and strong knowledge about what the job entails and the issues surrounding the profession. Good Luck!


  4. Hannah
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 14:33:57

    Hi Holly,

    I was just wondering, have you done an archiving MA, like the one at Liverpool? Because I’ve been thinking about applying for that, but obviously don’t want to if I’m not going to be able to get a job!



    • holly1986fairhall
      Oct 01, 2010 @ 17:43:47

      No I really want to do the MA – just trying to get as much experience possible before I apply. I really wanted to get a paid internship before I applied so that is what I am working towards at the moment!! Plus I had a baby last September and she goes to nursery in a few months so wanted to wait until she was settled. You might have to do a bit of volunteering? There are jobs – just really difficult to get!!


  5. DaisyThing
    Oct 04, 2010 @ 11:05:18

    Bear in mind that no profession however over or under-subscribed will give assurances that you will get a job upon qualifying. I don’t think it’s any tougher for aspiring archivists than for those wanting any other career. If you’ve seen the news recently the Metropolitan Police are planning to recruit mainly from a pool of volunteers so unless you can do that for a time you wouldn’t even be able to start training.
    Having seen a fair few job applications in my time my advice is to make sure that you indicate your enthusiasm for archives as a career – it’s surprising how few people put this across. Say why you are applying for the vacancy and address youself to the person specification. We recently advertised for an archives assistant and did not even shortlist several people who were highly qualified as they seemed to think the job was about research. Job applications take a huge amount of time but I think it’s better to do one or two really well than several that don’t really sell you.
    You seem to be friendly and outgoing which is a big plus as even if you do not have a job working directly with the public you will need to explain what you do to colleagues, managers, stakeholders etc. Being in London should be an advantage as there will be more opportunities but then living expenses are higher.
    If you are not getting interviews for jobs you are well qualified and experienced to do this suggests that you could do with some help in structuring or writing your application. You could join the Archives and Records Association as you’d have access to meetings of archivists where people could help and advise you or notify you of work coming up. Someone on Archives-nra might help you by looking at your applications and making helpful comments. Hopefully you’ll get something soon!


  6. msarahwickham
    Oct 04, 2010 @ 13:21:33

    You might find Lex Rigby’s prezi interesting about managing your online reputation:


  7. David Rart-Thorbes-Donaldson
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 08:32:52

    I would be very careful creating a digital shadow like this in a profession you want to enter, you have already perhaps closed doors for yourself at the National Theatre and the whole steer of the blog “my archiving hell”, and loving archives and it not loving you is that of considering yourself a victim – self-fulfilling prophecies come to mind. Moreover, I hope any cataloguing you do does not break out into ellipses or capital letters at random moments of exaggeration.

    Perhaps your blog is too far ahead of its time for me to understand? Though for now it reads like that of someone trying to get into the XFactor as opposed to a professional role.

    I honestly advise you stop writing it and make sure your name is never connected to it in future Google search results, we should all know by now that the first thing many prospective employers do is Google names from a list of applicants.

    Good luck, and it might also be worth noting that most people who work in archives long-term end up hating it as much as any other publicly funded, forever squeezed, thankless, politically steered miserable low-paid job.


    • holly1986fairhall
      Oct 05, 2010 @ 16:33:21

      The head archivist at the National Theatre has actually sent me a really sweet e – mail explaining why my application was not accepted this time, the qualities that people had who got interviews, and to say he liked my blog. He has also offered to show me the archives at the National Theatre next week (which I am very excited to write a blog about).
      Sooooooo, as much as I appreciate your advice I think I’m going to stick with it. Im sure I would never have heard anything from the National Theatre, and recieved as much brilliant advice, and made some new contacts trying to break into the industry if I hadn’t started my blog.

      Love your XFactor reference as well!! Keep READING!!


    • DaisyThing
      Oct 05, 2010 @ 17:22:27

      I’ve been in archives since graduation (1991) and still love it. One of the reasons I love it is that people are helpful and friendly – in real life I mean, online can be a bit different as we’re finding out!
      In the public sector we don’t usually have time to mess about Googling potential applicants and have an equal opportunities ethos so someone’s blog or other irrelevant factors shouldn’t be taken into account.
      I’m concerned about the public spending cuts but I think we shoudl fight back – not just for our jobs but for everyone who needs our services. Oh yeah, that’s everyone.


      • holly1986fairhall
        Oct 05, 2010 @ 17:32:36

        What an encouraging message – thanks!!

      • Professional archivist
        Oct 05, 2010 @ 20:51:53

        I just want to echo what DaisyThing says – I’ve been an archivist since 1992 and have never once regretted joining the profession, even though I’ve had times of signing on for the dole, like everyone, and even now when drastic cuts are staring my service – and me – in the face.
        The idea that we all end up miserable and ground down is just completely ludicrous – where is the evidence for that? Jenny Moran carried out an informal survey recently and had an overwhelmingly positive response.
        Holly has perhaps been naive at times in her questions and approach but I welcome her enthusiasm and positive nature, and I think archives needs more people like that, and less narrow-mindedness and pomposity. I am delighted to say that at the ARA regional meetings I frequently attend I have got to know a great many archivists who are friendly, outgoing and welcoming, and personally nothing beats face to face. Social networking is great, but has its limitations. Holly, I hope you aren’t put off joining your local region as an affiliate member!

  8. Sarah Stark
    Oct 08, 2010 @ 13:46:02

    nice to read your blog (though I echo those who have advised you to be aware that potential employers may read it too…)
    I have had several jobs in archives since I qualified in the early 1990s, though I currently have 2 young children and am not working. You asked for interview tips somewhere – a useful one I was given once when I didn’t get a job was to Make Eye Contact With the Person To Whom You Are Speaking – don’t look round at everyone on the board when you reply to a question. I called for feedback on that interview and subsequently applied for and got a job at the same institution.
    I’d also advise you to apply for jobs even if you feel you do not know a lot about the subject/s covered by the archives in question, or that it doesn’t interest you much. In my experience as an interviewer the less mainstream jobs are much more difficult to recruit professionally-minded people for. So those with or intending to acquire qualifications are sought after. And it’s important for archivists to be able to apply professional skills to any kind of material, not just that from the period/region they are most interested in!
    Keep on trying – it’s hard at the start, especially with a baby to look after as well!


  9. Ruth
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 09:08:00

    I think your blog is a great idea, and an inspiration to others who also want to make archives their profession. You are in exactly the right location for getting lots of volunteer experience and hopefully some paid work too. Don’t forget that you can also do an archive/records management qualification by distance learning – you don’t have to do a full-time course.


  10. Elizabeth Mc Gorty
    Oct 16, 2010 @ 00:08:18

    Hi Holly,

    I came across your blog via the search words “archivist” and “National Theatre.” I love it! I’m adding you to my blogroll. But I’d love to E-mail you, as I have some questions — can you provide me (by E-mail, if you want it to remain private) your E-mail address?

    Keep fighting the good fight, my dear.

    And you’re baby is very cute!


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