Guarding New Zealand’s history

Posted on 21 July 2014

A guardian of New Zealand’s story, this is how archivist Elizabeth Charlton sees herself and her dedication to learning how to be the best guardian of precious resources motivated her to attend the prestigious 47th Annual Georgia Archives Institute in America. 

Elizabeth, who is currently working part time in the Marist Archives in Wellington while she completes her Diploma in Records and Information Management by distance learning through the Open Polytechnic, says that the diploma suited her needs best. 

“I looked at several different options and found that this qualification addressed what I wanted to learn,” she says. 

Having studied at Victoria University and by distance through Monash University in Australia previously, Elizabeth says she has found the flexibility of distance learning an asset. 

“I wanted the flexibility to study when it suited me and not be tied down to a specific timetable. Also to give me time to do volunteer work and paid work,” she says. 

“I’m pretty much an independent learner and so can be left to get on with it. I can also slot my studies in around other things going on.”

In addition to an opportunity to network during her visit to the States last month, Elizabeth says learning how to preserve digital materials and learning more about processes at other institutions, the likes of the American Library of Congress, amongst others, is one of the highlights of her trip. 

“The criteria for acceptance to attend included employment in an archival institution, current study as well as referees. I also had to be clear on my goals for attending. Seeing the theory I have been learning, in practice, is invaluable too.” 

Elizabeth says that the accessibility of lecturers at the Open Polytechnic has been a huge help in attaining her study goals and advises anyone planning on undertaking further study to ask questions. 

“All my lecturers have been really open to receiving calls from me when I’ve wanted to discuss aspects of the course – they really are stars! I’ve plumbed the Open Polytechnic library for material on archives. The study material is pretty comprehensive. I really appreciated getting phone calls in my first trimester to check that everything was going ok – that’s a great service to provide,” she says. 

“I work part-time intentionally to give myself study days. But I also get up at 6am in term time and get in an hour’s study before going to work. My goal is to get the most out of every course that is part of the diploma.”

On the brink of finishing her Diploma in Records and Information Management, with only one paper left to complete, Elizabeth says she has found the content of her papers to be relevant to her current work. 

“All my learning and assignments have been based on my current work context. I complete research enquiries, process materials, create documents that allow us to have intellectual control over all the great material we have in our archives,” she says, adding that her long term goal is to preserve and guard the information in her care now, for future generations. 

“I want to keep learning about how to preserve the precious information heritage that we have here in New Zealand.”