The National Archives offers a variety of career opportunities. Here, some of our staff talk about their roles and experiences.
Katy Mair – Principal Records Specialist – Early Modern
I advise researchers as they navigate our extraordinary collection of records, both in our reading rooms and remotely; my area of specialism is the early modern period. I’m involved in various cataloguing projects, which aim to unlock some of the less well-described documents, so that readers can extend their research. I am also involved in research projects and supervise PhD students working on our collections, as well as collaborating with universities to create exhibitions and events that explore our documents.
I completed a PhD on early modern letter writing in 2009. It’s hugely rewarding to be able to use skills (such as palaeography) that I gained during my postgraduate studies, and my research skills are continually being developed through the demands of the role.
It’s very satisfying to be able to show people how to get the most from our online catalogue and the resources in the reading rooms here at Kew. The most exciting part of my role is seeing the final outcome of the research undertaken by our readers: how they’ve used our unique archival collection to develop and extend historical knowledge.
Melinda Haunton – Programmes Manager, Archives Sector Development
I’m responsible for Archive Service Accreditation, our management standard for the wider archives sector. I lead on assessing applications from archive services seeking to meet the standard, and I run training for archivists on how they can use Accreditation to develop their services.
I have a PhD in History and previously I taught undergraduate courses at several universities. Since joining The National Archives, I have trained to become a qualified archivist.
As a historian by training, I find it so satisfying to be working to preserve the nation’s written heritage, without which we would know so little about our past. I particularly enjoy visiting newly Accredited Archive Services to give them their awards and celebrate their success. Archivists round the country work hard and sometimes feel rather invisible. It’s great to be able to change that!
Rosalind Morris – Education Web Officer
I create online educational resources based on our collections for teachers to use in their classrooms. I also manage our Education social media, letting teachers know about what we have to offer: we’ve created a variety of materials, from themed collections of digital documents, ready-to-use lessons, topic sites for students, and short films for use in class.
Originally I studied for degrees in English and Comparative Literature and Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Then I completed my PGCE and taught English in Secondary schools. I’ve also been a freelance web designer.
The National Archives has an amazing atmosphere of interest and discovery: you never really know what you will be faced with when you open a box of documents. Seeing teachers benefit from the resources we make is incredibly rewarding. Opportunities to take part in projects and research outside of my regular role mean I can shape my professional development to suit me.
David Underdown – Senior Digital Archivist
I’m a digital archivist in the digital preservation team, dealing primarily with large digitisation projects such as the 1939 Registers or our First World War unit war diaries. I define technical specifications for the images, and create schemas for accompanying metadata. I also work on some transfers of born digital records from government departments, working to define system enhancements required to ingest a wider range of digital material. I write scripts using Python 3 to help prepare material for preservation. I’m also heavily involved in research work to create a risk model for our digital preservation using Bayesian networks.
My degree was in Maths; then I joined the IT department of a life and pensions company. I started at The National Archives as a database administrator and systems support engineer. From there I became involved in more of our digital preservation activities and realised it would be helpful to improve my understanding of the archivists’ role – and that I enjoyed that side of the work.
We face a broad range of challenges in digital archival practice: my technical background is just as important as some of the more traditional archival backgrounds of my colleagues. For example, we have to deal with understanding new data formats, and the huge volume of digital data that we are now beginning to receive.
Gwyn Jones – Lead Front-end Developer
My role involves hands-on software development as part of a multi-disciplinary agile team, setting development standards and providing technical guidance to other developers.
Previously, I’ve worked on digital services across a number of government departments and have an educational background in Computer Science. I have a keen interest in using technology to deliver user-focused, innovative and accessible digital services.
What do I like best about my role here? The National Archives is a great place to work and an excellent place to continually grow your technical skills. I feel very privileged to work with such motivated, supportive and talented people.
Sarra Hamdi – User Experience Manager
I’m the User Experience Manager in the Digital Services Department. Working alongside colleagues in Digital Services I have overall responsibility for ensuring our work, on the website, catalogue and all digital products, is user focused. This can range from figuring out how we can improve a current digital service or product, through testing it with users, to organising formative user research to allow us to get insight right at the beginning of the design phase.
I have degree in History and an MSc in Human-Computer Interaction. After completing my master’s, I joined The National Archives as a user researcher.
Working here, I have the opportunity to think about a wide variety of users and the possibilities there are to support them through effective interaction design. But perhaps the best aspect is having great colleagues that support me and encourage me to think creatively and not be afraid to try new approaches to user research.
Emilie Cloos – Conservator
I am a paper conservator in the ‘loans and exhibitions’ team. I organise the loan of our documents to other national and international institutions, or museums, for temporary exhibitions. I also lend a hand in setting up our exhibitions in the Keeper’s Gallery and assist other members of staff in their in-house document displays.
I did a BA in Art History and Archaeology in Brussels and moved to London for a MA in Modern and Contemporary Art (and never left). I worked in contemporary art galleries for a little while but I wanted to do something more hands-on. I went on to do a second MA in Art on Paper Conservation at Camberwell College of Arts and started working here shortly thereafter.
I love working in loans, as it combines practical conservation and research – making sure our documents are at their best – with elements of art, history and museology. The projects I work on are as varied as the exhibitions we are involved in, from Richard the Lionheart to Terence Cuneo; I learn about a great array of subjects and get to travel to other institutions, where I meet fascinating museum and heritage people.
Furthermore, I work within an incredibly friendly team, I’m always encouraged in my professional development endeavours and I’m given the freedom to get involved in projects I am passionate about.