What is it like to be a trainee?

 Below, past and present trainees share their experiences.



Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist, 2019-2021

I moved to Oxford and started working as a Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist in April 2019. I graduated in 2016 with a BA in History and English Literature and during my undergraduate studies I volunteered in a couple of different roles within the heritage sector to try and decide what career path would be the best fit for me. I decided that I was interested in working as an Archivist because it would give me the best of both worlds: working Ďbehind-the-scenesí engaging directly with historic documents, whilst still doing some public engagement and outreach work.

I came to this job with very little experience of archival work, but this hasnít been a barrier at all because the traineeship is designed to introduce you to the basics and build on your understanding in a structured way. So far Iíve learned a range of transferable skills, including modifying XML files, arranging and cataloguing papers and ephemera, and capturing media-based archives, such as cassettes, CDs and DVDs. Once per week I also work on curating the Bodleian Librariesí Web Archive. My work on the Web Archive has been particularly interesting, as it has been a gateway to learning about the challenges we face in trying to develop technologies and methodologies for curating and preserving the colossal amount of born-digital information that we generate every day.

Studying part-time with Aberystwyth in addition to working full-time as a trainee can sometimes be difficult, but the course readings are interesting and useful for contextualising the work that I do in my day-to-day job. Oxford has so many beautiful libraries to explore that even finding somewhere new to settle down and do my readings feels like a bit of an adventure!

Working as a trainee in Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries is extremely rewarding. It gives me the opportunity to handle some fascinating and unique collections and to work with supportive colleagues who really love their work. I canít wait to see what the next year has in store.


Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist, 2020-2022

Having now worked as a trainee with the Bodleian Libraries for a little over a month, I can honestly say that the job was 100% worth the move from The Netherlands to the UK. As my predecessors have written, the job is incredibly varied, interesting and very rewarding.

Like the majority of my fellow trainees I do not have a background in libraries or archives. However, I do have a background in research and using archives from work on my PhD focussing on British Popular Literature. Whilst writing my dissertation I was also working as an Information and Process coordinator. In this role I managed a number of IT related projects, including the implementation of a knowledge management base. It was this project that got me interested in knowledge and records management. So when I stumbled upon this traineeship with the Bodleian it seemed the ideal combination of my love for technology and research. As it turns out, it is indeed. 

Although I have only been working at the Bodleian for a short while I have already been given the opportunity to do and learn so much. I have already been taught how to manipulate XML files, how to archive websites and how to digitize cassette tapes and other media. I am currently also being trained to assist in the reading rooms and I have been assigned my very own cataloguing project. Working on the latter has been especially exciting and surprising, as next to documents and books I have also been cataloguing merchandise which includes such Ďexoticí items as t-shirts, jackets, corkscrews Ė they come in five different colours and have even been engraved Ė and temporary tattoos.

The distance study at Aberystwyth really prepares me for the tasks that I face in my work and therewith helps me to gain a better understanding of my job, its importance and the history behind it. It does take some self-discipline to keep up with the course work whilst working 4.5 days a week, but if you manage your time wisely it really is doable.

I look forward to learning even more over the course of the coming two years, and I am sure I will look back upon my decision to apply for this job as one of the best ones I could have made.

 Group photo of the trainees in the BEAM processing room, May 2017

Rachael, Alice, Ashleigh, Miten, Carl, Kelly, Ben and Iram, BEAM processing room, May 2017 


Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019

Before starting work at the Bodleian I could never have imagined just what a diverse, exciting, and welcoming place it would be to work. So far I have been involved in many varied and interesting projects including: utilising XML to re-code catalogues from EAD1 to EAD2, web archiving, processing Roy Strongís personal archive, and answering reader enquiries to mention just a few. I even got to spend an afternoon helping one of our archivists, Catherine McIlwaine, with Tolkienís spellbinding collection!

My decision to become an archivist has been inspired by my academic and practical trajectory to date, namely my undergraduate degree and masters in History of Art and year-long partnership undertaken at the National Railway Museum. These initial experiences cemented my passion for the material object and led me to want to learn more about its preservation through traditional and digital archiving practices.

I am thoroughly enjoying being a Trainee Digital Archivist here in Oxford. It is wonderful having the opportunity to gain practical experience of a range of collections and archive work (including the Conservative Party Archives and born-digital material), as well as studying for a postgraduate qualification in Digital Curation from Aberystwyth University. Working full time and studying is certainly a challenge but also a highly rewarding one.

I really value the knowledge and skills I have gained from the traineeship so far, the experience has certainly shown me the value of digital archiving in todayís society and I very much look forward to everything the next two years have in store.


Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019

I started my traineeship after completing my BA in History at Aberystwyth University, my interest in the archive sector started with two internships, the first being with The Hong Kong Heritage Project in 2014, and the second being with Hong Kong University in 2015. Both of these internships showed me how important archives are from a cultural heritage standpoint and from an education standpoint.

The traineeship at the Bodleian presents graduates with a golden ticket into the archive world, giving hands-on training in many different aspects of collection management whilst also helping you to study towards a recognised qualification. The work and study complement each other nicely, and with mentorship from experienced members you rarely feel lost. In addition, the opportunity to start alongside five new trainees has also proven to be immensely helpful as we are developing not only individually but as a team.

The work we have undertaken so far has been extremely varied, our schedules consist of work on Conservative Party Archive, the United Nations, enquiries and digital work in BEAM, each presents its own set of unique challenges and invaluable insight into how archives are run. The work is consistently challenging alongside being endlessly interesting.

The traineeshipís focus on digital archiving showcases the direction the industry is taking. The digital aspects of the traineeship, especially work in BEAM and Web Archiving, has shown us the importance of born-digital preservation and digitation projects and how avoiding a digital Ďdark ageí is hugely important.

The distance learning diploma at Aberystwyth forms an important aspect of the traineeship, the work and study balance is by no means easy but the overlap between many aspects of study and work is particularly useful and means that development at work compliments development academically. In addition, the benefits of emerging from the traineeship with a qualification also cannot be understated and will hugely increase my career prospects in the archive sector.

Part of the traineeship involves attending various archive related events across the UK, these should prove helpful as they both promote the development of new skills and also present a platform for meeting new members of the archive community.

In short, being a trainee at the Bodleian is a unique learning experience that will form the cornerstone of my professional development into the archive sector, it is also something I am very grateful to be a part of.


Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019

I studied History as an undergraduate at Goldsmiths University of London, during this time I undertook an internship at St Paulís Cathedral in the Collections Department gaining an introduction into Collections Management and Archiving. After my first internship I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the heritage sector once I graduated. After university I worked on a digitisation project at the Royal Airforce Museum in London. This gave me an insight into record management and the importance of digital media and the issues surrounding preservation and access for both traditional mediums and born digital material.

The traineeship is great and I enjoy all aspects of the work I am involved in. My days are well structured but varied. I am currently working on a number of projects including the Conservative Party Archives, Roy Strongís personal papers and legal deposit web archiving work.  Some days I work on enquires, these come from all over the world and are expanding my knowledge of the archives and collections held by the Bodleian. Learning new software and programmes is also an essential part of the role that I enjoy and I am looking forward to using more applications as the traineeship progresses.

Working full time and completing a postgraduate course in Digital curation can be challenging but the study school and support from colleagues and my fellow trainees makes this aspect fun and enjoyable. Being able to take what I learn at work and apply it directly to my studies and vice versa is extremely beneficial as is the knowledge and experience of those around me.


Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019 

Growing up in Glasgow, with regular visits to its many and varied cultural institutions, including the excellent Glasgow Life museums, meant I knew from a young age I wanted to work in the cultural heritage sector. However, it was my undergraduate degree in Digital Media and Information Studies that cemented this ambition more fully, and where I became particularly interested in how digital technologies can, and are, affecting the way we live, learn and work. This, combined with modules on digitisation and record management, encouraged me to pursue the Bodleian Libraries Digital Archivist traineeship to gain vital experience within the archives sector with a long-term aim of contributing to the preservation and accessibility of our past, for future users.

The traineeship has been meticulously organised to provide us with a diverse and comprehensive introduction to the many aspects of archival work; so far I have worked on collection appraisal and cataloguing on some fascinating modern political collections which has been especially engaging; worked in the reading rooms where it has been very rewarding to see our collections being used and appreciated and to help with this process; and have been working in BEAM (Bodleian Electronic Archives and Manuscripts) to extract digital materials for processing. Working in BEAM has been really exciting; as digital content becomes increasingly relevant to archival work, I feel this is somewhere we trainees can really contribute. As our training progresses, Iím looking forward to capturing and preserving a variety of digital material.

The Aberystwyth University Digital Curation diploma has been really useful in providing a theoretical basis to the work we have been doing; learning archival principles via the course and seeing how they work in practice during the traineeship has been invaluable to my development as an archivist. The best part of traineeship has to be working with my fellow trainees and our colleagues at the Weston Library, who have been incredibly helpful, introducing us to a range of archival roles and processes. It is great working alongside such passionate and knowledgeable individuals and Iíve really enjoyed my traineeship so far; it doesnít feel like work, because everything is so interesting!


Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019 

I feel incredibly lucky to be taking part in a traineeship here that combines both full time work and funded distance learning with Aberystwyth University. There is no time as trainee digital archivists when we are not busy- but I love this and thrive on it! Special collections staff are so supportive, and we all have a personal tutor at Aberystwyth, too.

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History from Royal Holloway University of London. During my degree I undertook some work experience in the United States at a National Historic site in Kansas, engaging with materials and culture linked to the site and its history. I was so engaged with the work there, but knew little about working towards a career in archives until I returned home and began to research.

Not having a STEM background, I have surprised myself at how much I enjoy the technology related aspects of the traineeship such as assisting in an XML conversion project which will contribute to improved access for all of our users. I have also massively appreciated mastering web-archiving related terminology and functions; in my first month I have learnt so much about the entire process of the BLWA from nomination of a site through to quality assuring its Ďcrawlsí. In the months to come I am excited to raise awareness of the web archiving here at the Bodleian and the wider importance of preserving sites.

No two consecutive days are the same as a trainee, and the varied experience means I am building up a rounded skill set. Itís difficult to choose an aspect I enjoy the most, but currently I would say it is assisting with enquiries. I love gaining insights into the collections from more experienced staff members, visiting the stacks and working to find an item that a reader specifically needs for their research. The scope and extent of the Bodleianís collections are so exciting and it is a joy to work with them. 


Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2017-2019 

Before starting this traineeship I had very little knowledge or experience of the archives and heritage sector. I have a science background and completed my PhD in Pre-clinical dentistry in 2016. As soon as I saw this role advertised I became immediately intrigued. After reading about the archives sector and what this role entailed I knew that this was the job for me; the more I found out about it the more I wanted to do it. I thought having little experience of archiving and this sector would make it difficult for me to get into at this later stage of my career as everyone else I spoke to seemed to have done a lot more! I undertook some short work experience at the Bodleian Library and also volunteered at De Montfort University Archives and after that it was clear in my mind that this was definitely what I wanted to do as it was so enjoyable and the satisfaction you get from your work is immense.

Learning about archiving from the Bodleian library has been a fantastic experience so far and I donít feel that the lack of prior experience has hindered me in anyway. Having six other trainees starting at the same time has been a really nice experience as we all have different backgrounds and interests and we have been able to learn from and support each another. There is so much going on within the library and everyone is incredibly friendly and willing to help so it fosters a great working and learning atmosphere. This has allowed me to settle into the role and increase my understanding about all things archive related incredibly quickly.

After the initial training, it was great to be able to get hands on with my own projects as I knew that I was making an immediate contribution from a very early stage which was incredibly satisfying. As a trainee, currently I spend my time between Web archiving, XML work on re-coding catalogues from EAD.1 to EAD.2, collection management, working in the reading rooms and part time distance learning. This variety is fantastic as it is developing my skills in a broad range of areas and has allowed me to see how a library and archive of the Bodleianís size and stature operates.

It is a lot of work and you have to manage your time well however we receive great support and knowing that this is a truly unique and valuable experience that will give us a solid platform to build a career within the archiving profession makes it worth it.

Iím really looking forward to developing my skills and experience as a digital archivist over the coming years at one of the best libraries in the world. I feel incredibly fortunate to be working in the place that I do, doing the work that I do and learning from colleagues that have great experience, passion and pride for their work.    



Ashleigh and Rachael at the Weston Library

Ashleigh and Rachael, Weston Gallery, November 2016  



Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2016-2018

I started this traineeship just over a month after graduating with a BA in English. I knew from my first year as an undergraduate that I wanted to pursue a career in archiving, and beginning this traineeship has already pushed me so much further towards my goal than I ever would have expected to be at this point.

During my time as an undergrad I had a placement in the Special Collections department at the University of Nottingham which gave me a great first insight into archiving, but this traineeship is providing me with skills that will be invaluable when Iím qualified. I had no experience with digital archiving when I started, only ever paper, but Iím finding it a fascinating aspect of archiving to be involved in. Iím especially enjoying web-archiving, which is something I never expected I would be working on before this traineeship but has become one of my favourite regular tasks. The work is so varied that I definitely feel as though Iím building a rounded and relevant skill-set. One day I might be working on a literary archive, the next I might be working with floppy disks or working in the reading room Ė it really is very varied.

The Aberystwyth study supports the day to day work, by providing more background and theoretical basis into what Iím doing on the job. It is hard work studying for a post-graduate diploma and working full-time, but as the work and study complement each other well and both are enjoyable it really doesnít feel as exhausting as it sounds. 

I attended an Archives and Records Association literary archives training event recently, and Iím looking forward to future opportunities to attend similar events with the chance to gain outside training and to meet others who are working in archives to see how their experience differs to that of working for the Bodleian. The training sessions with the library trainees are also useful to see how the Bodleian Libraries and College Libraries function in a wider sense, so you can get a feel for where your role fits into the Bodleian as whole… and for a chance to see the BSF in Swindon (and its 153 miles of shelving!)



Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2015-2017

I was new to Oxford and to archives when I started the traineeship. I studied French and History, then went to teach English in France before returning to the UK to pursue a career in archives. After volunteering in a local museum, where I was introduced to the challenges of managing digital material, I embarked on the digital archives traineeship.

The traineeship is ideal as it combines an emphasis on digital archives with more traditional skills, which means that the training is very rounded. Studying for the postgraduate diploma from Aberystwyth University helps with this too, introducing you to a comprehensive range of theoretical and practical topics. Working full time and undertaking the Archives Administration course in two years does mean that the pace is intensive, but the support from colleagues and the fact that what you are studying is directly applicable and relevant to your work, means that the process is really engaging.

I am really enjoying the variety of work: I can be working on the Bodleian Libraries Web Archive; appraising and cataloguing project files for the Oxfam archive; using different databases and programs; and attending training and conferences on topics such as preserving social media. Working in the reading rooms you also gain valuable experience of how the collections are used. I'm looking forward to cataloguing my own collections, capturing digital material and undertaking a development project with a software engineer. There are lots of opportunities to get involved, for example with the UK Web Archive, led by the British Library. For the first year of the scheme you also attend training sessions for the Graduate Library Trainees programme on topics such as manual handling, e-resources, supporting disabled readers, and digitisation projects.

Being a digital archivist trainee is very rewarding. It is a great place to work, with fantastic colleagues, and I'm looking forward to the next two years and becoming a qualified archivist. 

Emily, Harriet and Rachael outside the Weston Library

  Emily, Rachael and Harriet, outside the Weston Library, December 2015



Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2014-2016

Being a Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist at the Bodleian Libraries has enabled me to be involved in a variety of collections work, engage with a range of individuals and expand my knowledge and understanding of archival processes relating to both physical and digital material. With an undergraduate degree and masters in History of Art and a yearís experience as an Archives Assistant, I came to the Bodleian Libraries eager to learn more about digital archiving because of its growing relevance in practices today. I have not only become competent in webarchiving and processing audio-visual material, but have also been introduced to a range of initiatives being undertaken currently to capture and preserve born-digital archives nationally. Alongside this, I have worked with and catalogued material dating as far back as the eighteenth-century, and have assisted readers at the Weston Library and been involved with the running of events and classes here. I am really enjoying working in Oxford and the breadth of the traineeship, which is complemented and strengthened by my distance-learning course at Aberystwyth. Studying for a postgraduate diploma in Archives Administration is enlightening and interesting Ė so far it has involved researching and submitting a report or essay every 6-8 weeks on a topic such as archival theory, preservation, appraisal and cataloguing. The work and time required to do this is made much more manageable through the support of my department, and I know I will really benefit from gaining the necessary qualification to be an archivist alongside the practical experience of the full-time traineeship.


Graduate Trainee Digital Archivist 2014-2016 

As a Digital Archivist trainee, you get the best of both worlds. Not only is the programme tailored to equip anyone new to archives with the skillset you need to get a professional qualification in Archive Administration (with an emphasis on the digital curation aspect of it), but you also get to participate in the wider graduate trainee programme that the Bodleian Libraries offers.

I have a STEM background with an MSc in Ethnobotany and research experience. One of the things that really drew me to this traineeship was that I saw first hand all the data and papers generated by research groups and labs that are now born-digital. These are materials that future researchers will want to use whether to replicate experiments or to build on previous research; yet very little thought has gone into their long term preservation.

This traineeship gives me a wide range of practical experience in traditional and digital curation roles while also supporting me as I work towards a professional qualification with Aberystwyth University. Some of the things I've done include; working with the British Library on archiving the web, cataloguing hybrid collections, going to conferences and workshops on current issues in digital archives, and much more.

That doesn't mean that the more traditional aspects of archives are neglected though, and because this traineeship was developed with Aberystwyth's distance-learning course in mind, often the two dovetail neatly. While it takes a good deal of time management to juggle the two, I prefer the accelerated pace because what you learn stays fresh in your mind and you can quickly see its application in your day to day work.

I am really enjoying the experience and look forward to what the next year brings.



Harriet and Emily, assisting with the move into the Weston Library, October 2014




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