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Pros/Cons of Dual History+MLS or History+Archives Science?


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Hi all!


Just wondering if anyone has insightful input into experiences they've had or heard about regarding dual programs for History and Library Science or Archives? (Yes I know LS and Archives are drastically different but I am interested in both for different reasons)


I don't want this post to be about me or my chances, so I'll just say I would be happy in a History MA program but  happier pairing it with another field of skills that I am also very interested in. I am leaning more towards these specialized fields within LS & Archives: Digital Archives, Digital [anything], e-Government. I know some MLS programs have a simple specialization in Archives [and/or Records Management], so that route is also an option.


Trying to weigh which type of programs I'm interested in to apply this fall. How do you guys like your dual programs like this? Pros? Cons? Good bad and ugly? Do you know stories of what people end up doing after receiving dual-degress (whether it helps in the Library/Archives field to add the history aspect? Vice versa?)

Any freeform advice is hugely appreciated! Thanks in advance!!

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I am a former archivist so I know a good amount about this topic. Do you want to be an archivist? If so, you need the MLS. Ten or twenty years ago, you could become an archivist with just an MA, but that has changed. The archives profession is now more along the lines as librarians than historians. In fact, that is the main reason why I stopped being an archivist - the profession had little to do with actual history and more about metadate and technology. Also, do you tend to me an anal retentive organization freak? If so, you will be the perfect archivist. If you aren't (like me), you won't be that good. 


One more thing you should be aware of when it comes to archives - the job market is almost as bad as it is for professors. A entry level archives position can easily get two hundred applicants. For the first year or so, you probably will have to work part time jobs or do freelance work that doesn't give you any benefits. So it needs to be something you really want to do before you put in the effort. 

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I'd say CrazyCatLady is spot on with the archival work growing toward metadata/technology, and I can imagine that the archival field (nestled often with museums) is inundated with applicants. However, I'm in the museum field and I've worked with archivists. I have seen at least one example of a history background. Then again it was a small history museum. That might be rare elsewhere.

I'd recommend checking out archival jobs, and seeing if you'd like the work description, and/or the academic qualifications, which are sought or required for ideal candidates.

Something else to consider --

Do you like objects (over paper)? Prefer to work with history in a museum? Have you considered a history MA, and a public history or museum studies option? Honestly, I see those a better match, than a history MA and a MLS. I believe you'll also be more marketable having skills and the content. Lastly, training for archival work is primarily for archivist work, whereas a museum studies or public history option is a little more open to a variety of roles in a museum setting. It may not be for you, but it is something to consider.

Edited by ArtHistoryandMuseum
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  • 2 weeks later...

I am starting my MA in Public History and my MLIS in Archives in the Fall at Maryland and here's what I can tell you:


The National Council on Public History had a forum at their 2012 Conference in Milwaukee. The people there said if you want to work in history outside of academia, Public History and dual MLIS/MLS, to a lesser extent MIS, are incredibly useful. Yes, the job prospects are bleak. But, in some ways better. And having both degrees which, usually, only takes you a year longer (3 years total) or 2.5 years total if you can push yourself. In doing dual degrees you gain an advantage over the job market. You can work in both museums and libraries, public, private, etc. 


There is a lot more technology involved, yes. I admit that. But, when you're coding something or digitizing or making new online records you are still interacting with the documents. For example, when I interned at the Smithsonian I was working with a scanner or a computer almost 60% of my day (looking at finding aids or in boxes, reference desk, etc. for the other 40%), but I was still interacting. When I scanned I got to read (or at least skim), view and experience being with all of these amazing things.


It's definitely a people-driven job. I loved the feeling when I could help a researcher find exactly what they were looking for. Or, at one point I found an original portrait of the founder of Haiti and got to show it to my Haitian co-worker who was literally speechless. You have to be able to marry those technical and people skills together. It's not for everyone - definitely. But for some, it is.


What I recommend is doing is this:

 - an internship at an archives so you know what you're dealing with

- looking at dual degree programs

- find a program that requires an internship or a field study (South Carolina, IUPUI and Maryland are three that I know of that do)

- find a program with good SAA (Society of American Archivists) connections, society 

- connections! And conferences! One of my co-workers at the Smithsonian's dancing partner at the annual conference was the former head of the South Carolina Public History program.


If you have any questions about particular dual degree programs, feel free to ask or PM me. I've probably applied to most of them!

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