CAREER GUIDE Friday, September 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India

Archivists: increasingly in demand
RCHIVES hold a unique position amongst the institutions of any modern state by acting as a repository of records, both past and present. The word ‘archive’ comes from a Greek source meaning public office or town hall.




Archivists: increasingly in demand

ARCHIVES hold a unique position amongst the institutions of any modern state by acting as a repository of records, both past and present. The word ‘archive’ comes from a Greek source meaning public office or town hall. Archives include old hand-written manuscripts, letters, papers, maps, drawings and more recently typed, photocopied and microfilmed material. Tape recordings and computer discs are also being added to the archives.

India, with its long and diverse threads of history has hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, records, inscriptions, documents, etc., most of which have yet to be scientifically preserved and restored. While regular records from the 18th century are available, the National Archives at Delhi has works as old as the Gilgit inscriptions dating from the early centuries of the Christian era. As archives contain a vast storehouse of knowledge that could otherwise be easily lost, they significantly contribute to a better understanding of our past which in turn helps us understand the forces that have shaped contemporary India.

The work of an archivist is to maintain and care for these collections. Archivists see that the records are well preserved and that old documents and parchments are treated and stored carefully so that they remain in good condition. They catalogue the material and make them available to researchers. They also decide what to include in the collection and which documents should be photocopied, laminated or stored on microfilm or in some other way.

Qualities required to become an archivist?

To be a good archivist, you require a genuine interest in history, particularly in the kind of original source material stored in archives. You should be keen on academic work and study, careful, meticulous and prepared to do detailed work. You must also have a certain amount of manual dexterity which is required in the physical care of records.

Where to pursue archival studies

The School of Archival Studies which forms part of the National Archives, New Delhi, is one of the most prestigious institutes in India. Set up by the British in 1891 as the Imperial Records Department, it began conducting courses in archival keeping from 1941. In 1976, the Institute of Archival Training was established and was later renamed as the School of Archival Studies.

Housed in a separate new building in the Archives complex, this school is today a premier training institute in the field not only for India but also for most Afro-Asian countries, with a fair proportion of non-Indian students.

The school offers a variety of courses:

  • Diploma in Archival Studies (one-year): Applications for this course which begins in September are invited till July 15. A minimum of 50 per cent in MA (history) with at least one paper in Modern Indian History is the criterion for admission.

  • Certificate courses (eight weeks): in archives administration, reprography, care and conservation of books, manuscripts and archives (all of which are professional courses) are held at different times of the year. Graduation is the minimum qualification required for these courses.

  • Certificate course (fourweeks): in records management for personnel employed in archival repositories and record rooms in government, public and private organisations. The course is conducted in May and December each year.

  • Sub-professional course (eight weeks): in servicing and repair of books for personnel employed in record rooms of ministries, libraries and other departments.

While the sponsored candidates can be sponsored by institutions or business houses or ministries, and can get direct admission, private candidates have to appear for an interview.

As the number of students taking the annual course is quite low, the teacher-student ratio is relatively high. While most of the faculty members are from the school itself, eminent archivists and historians are usually invited for lectures, seminars and workshops.

The institution provides good facilities, including classrooms, laboratories, dark room facilities, reprography units, reading rooms and libraries. Hostel facilities, however, are still not available. The school is in regular contact with other renowned archives, i.e. the Smithsonian Institute and the London Archives. According to the Director, the course offered at the National Archives is actually more comprehensive than at most other places, comparing favourably even with training institutes in the western world. Several alumni hold important positions not only in India but also in countries like Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Malaysia, etc.

Apart from the diploma at the National Archives, one-year diploma in archival studies is offered by Pondicherry University, R Venkataraman Nagar, Kalapet, Pondicherry 605014. Eligibility is postgraduation in a relevant subject.

Other related courses:

  • PG diploma in Archives Keeping (part-time): Annamalai University, South Arcot Vallalar District, PO Annamalainagar — 608002, T.N.

  • PG diploma in Archives and Documentation and Management: Gandhigram Rural Institute, Dt Dindigul Anna, Gandhigram — 624302, T.N. Eligibility: Graduation with experience in library/archives/certificate in library science.

  • PG Diploma in Archival Science and Manuscriptology: Osmania University, Administrative Bldg, Hyderabad — 500007. Duration: one-year. Eligibility: Graduation with a three-year work experience.

Fee at the School of Archival Studies

Although there is no tuition fee, a registration fee of Rs. 40 for the diploma in archival studies and Rs. 25 for the certificate course has to be deposited in favour of the Director-General of Archives, National Archives of India, School of Archival Studies, Janpath, New Delhi—110001.

Scholarships offered by the school

The school offers five scholarships worth Rs. 500/- p.m. to five private candidates and six scholarships worth Rs. 300/- p.m. for sponsored candidates.

Job prospects in this field

Archivists are employed by the National Archives and its branches as well as in state and local archival departments. Industrial and commercial firms, universities, medical departments, religious institutions and libraries also require archivists.

Archival studies has so far been a rather neglected field in India which still has very few archives (less than 100, compared to about 5,000 in China and 6,000 in the USA). As archives have become important to various professions ranging from business and law, to historical research to statistical modelling, there is potential for more archives and archivists. While some business houses like Indian Aluminium have had their private archives for long, archives have also been set up more recently by the Tatas, the DCM group, etc. and with so many Indian companies tying up with MNCs, most of whom maintain their own archives, the demand for trained archivists is bound to increase.

As archives play a vital and essential role in the well-being of a modern nation-state, for someone interested in the field, this is a career that is both professionally and financially rewarding.

— Pervin Malhotra


What jobs will specialisation in French offer me?

Q After completing my graduation, what kind of jobs will a specialisation in French language offer me?

Ankita Chugh

A Besides the obvious language-centred jobs, e.g. interpretation, translation, teaching which call for very high degree of language skills, your knowledge of the language can be used to advantage if grafted on to other skills in the fields of travel & tourism, public relations, mass communication, publishing, commerce & industry, to name a few. Here the level of language skills required are essentially of the practical sort: speaking, understanding and some reading. Familiarity with the technical jargon of the trade you are in may be a help in some cases.

French happens to be the most popular language and offers the maximum scope - it is spoken by over 120 million people around the world!



Q Can a diploma holder in computers become a programmer? What course should one do to become a programmer?

Anoop Bawa

A Yes, a postgraduate diploma-holder in computer programming can become a programmer as a degree in this field is not absolutely mandatory. You can do a course (level B) in computer programming from any reputed institute, government or private, or one accredited to the DOEACC scheme. All said and done, an ace programmer is essentially honed on-the-job (so you needn’t really do a long-term course if you don’t wish to). But having said that, the fact does remain that the higher-end jobs, even in programming, often go to those with a BE/BTech/MCA. As a diploma-holder, you may find it somewhat tough to get a first job. But ultimately it is the work experience that will really count.



Q Is it true that degree courses in music even from some recognised universities are of very poor quality? Is it advisable to learn music through correspondence?

Kuljeet Kaur

A Not only is there a wide disparity in the music syllabi amongst colleges and universities of different states, even autonomous colleges functioning under the same university have no uniformity of syllabus or faculty. While some colleges give more emphasis to practical aspects, others are more tilted towards theory. Even the number and duration of papers and the scheme of examination for the same course vary from institution to institution.

Moreover, there are no strict or uniform norms for admitting students to the various courses. Often, even those who have little aptitude for music are enrolled. Naturally, the standard of performance of the students fluctuates drastically despite their having the same degree.

Besides the quality of intake, even the quantity matters. Ideally there should be no more than 10 to 15 students per class, say experts.

Also, not all good performers make good teachers, and vice versa.

There is yet another serious problem in this system of education. Since the classes comprise students of both sexes, the girl students cannot match the pitch of their male counterparts, and vice versa. This in turn affects the tonal quality of both students as well as teachers.

To answer your second question, music like even driving or swimming cannot ever be learnt through correspondence. Such courses are mainly meant to enable students who are learning music privately, to get a degree.



Q I have been working with an export house for three years. Since I am dealing with shipment, I have gained some functional knowledge. Is there any related course that I could pursue to upgrade my prospects?

Maninde Gill

A A Diploma in Port Development & Mgt (2-yr, Corresp) and a Diploma in Multi-Modal Transport (Containerisation) Logistics Mgt is offered by the Institute of Rail Transport, Room 17, Rail Bhavan, Raisina Rd, New Delhi 110001 (

These may be useful if you are interested in joining the Port Sector. The Ministry of Railways recognises this course as an additional qualification for recruitment to the post of ASM and Traffic/Commercial Apprentice.



Q I have done my MBA but the problem is that I have not cleared one paper. If I take up a job, will I be eligible for positions that call for an MBA? How should I handle questions regarding why I could not clear the exam? The true reason is that some family problems did not allow me to concentrate.

Sandeep Chugh

A There is such a stiff competition in the workplace today. No one is really interested in the reasons why you could not complete your programme — however genuine they may be. An employer chooses the best person to fulfil the job requirement. So if there is another candidate with a better set of skills then he is more likely to be chosen.

Please focus on completing your MBA on a priority basis so that you can get a job commensurate with an MBA qualification.

However, if you need to take up a job immediately, then do not think of yourself as an MBA. Consider yourself as a basic graduate with some additional skills and try to get a job that essentially requires a Bachelor’s degree — as a sales, call centre, front office or guest-relations executive, etc. The experience you gain on the job will certainly be of value in getting a better position when you do clear your MBA.


1. Where was the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit) held recently?

2. Name the protocol aimed at reducing emission of greenhouse gases that was ratified by India recently.

3. Where are Pakistan’s two nuclear power plants situated?

4. Name the head of the Samata Party.

5. Which Asian country was recently hit by typhoon Rusa — thought to be most devastating storm in four decades — that claimed nearly 200 lives?

6. What is the full form of PETA?

7. Name the club that recently signed a four-year contract with Brazilian star Ronaldo for 44 million euros($ 44.25 million).

8. Name the batsman who has scored more centuries in Test cricket than Sachin Tendulkar.

9. What is the capital of Ireland?

10. Which Indian state grows willow trees used in making cricket bats?

11. Expand CCD.

12. Which planet is called the Goddess of Beauty in Roman mythology?

13. With which sport is the Sivanthi Adityan Gold Cup associated?

14. With which sport is Sunil Kumar Sipaeya associated?

15. Who recently became the first Asian woman to cross the Catalina Channel in the USA?


School address..............................

Winners of quiz 164. The first prize by draw of lots goes to Priyampreet Kaur, 8th-B, Our Lady of Fatima Convent Secondary School, Azit Nagar, 22 No. Phatak, Patiala.

Second: Rakesh Kumar, Class 10, Aucha village, PO Dheera, Palampur,dist. Kangra (HP).

Third: Navdeep Singh, 11th(commerce), DAV Public School, Sector 3, Kurukshetra-136118.

Answers to quiz 164: Subedar Surinder Singh; Bhairon Singh Shekhawat; Parthiv Patel; Mithali Raj; Jharkhand ; New South Wales; Pakistan; Uttar Pradesh; Elbee; ‘Citizen Kane’; Coal India Limited; Luis Felipe Scolari; Brahim Boulami; Lapaz; Ram Jethmalani.

Cash awards of Rs 400, 300 and 200 are given to the first, second and third prize winners, respectively. These are sent at the school address.

— Tarun Sharma