The “OverlyHonestArchivists” tweets

This afternoon’s outbreak of Twitter humor was inspired by the #OverlyHonestHistorians hashtag, which included such gems as:

  • “This was the most interesting topic I could find in an archive within driving distance.”
  • I once stunned a graduate seminar by converting a percentage into a fraction.
  • I never actually read books by historians anymore. They bore me
  • I really dislike the smell of old books.
  • I found a text in the archives that disproved my thesis, put it back in the wrong place where nobody could find it
  • I have also used an inkpen in the “pencil only” sections of archives.
  • Haste overruled policy in archives when I neglected to use provided gloves at all times. More than once.
  • “There are about eight 19C presidents who completely blur for me. Too much facial hair, too little personality.”

With those (and tons more) as inspiration, the archivists of Twitter took to #OverlyHonestArchivists with all the relish that a Friday in January can bring. Some of the tweets are clearly tongue in cheek, some seem to be genuinely honest, and sometimes it’s hard to tell. Like all humor and all honesty, not all the tweets will please everyone. But hopefully at least some of them will make you laugh. And perhaps this compendium will come as a shock to non-archivist readers, as the tweets did to one person on Twitter: “Those are the funniest, and also the only, jokes about archivists that I’ve ever seen.”

Actually you CAN find it all with Google Search, but we’re not going to tell you the special keyword to use

Getting rid of stuff during appraisal is my favourite part.

I love the sight of a shelf of uniform neatly labelled boxes and move items to achieve this

I sometimes volunteer for mindless tasks like mylaring photos and scanning so that I can catch up on NPR podcasts

Everytime someone asks me if I have everything digitized I take a shot.

I’ve never read The Da Vinci Code.

Sometimes we can’t read the document either

I love it when school kids use the archives. LOVE. IT. (But =I don’t work in the reference dept.)

I am an archivist. Don’t know what you want, but I know how to get it… (With apologies to the Sex Pistols)

I love NHD season!

YOU can’t have food or drink in the reading room. But mine-that’s ok I know how to properly handle these documents

I’ve used fires, floods, storms & ‘historically poor rk practices’ as excuses for not being able to find items.

I’m rude to people who suggest I laminate something so it lasts longer

I actually hate using pencils and at home I have nothing but pens.

“I read the first five pages of ‘Archive Fever’ and then gave up” – every archivist ever

There is no reason why records of yr family business wd be anywhere but with your family. You probably binned them.

“25 identical copies were deaccessioned” = “25 identical copies were made into paper airplanes before recycling.”

“Best practice” actually translates to “that which is impossible to implement”

We’ve timed the stocktaking closure to coincide with your special once in a lifetime research trip from Australia

“Box-level description” = “Nobody’s going to want to see this crap. Ever.

“I’ll get started helping you right away, just as soon as you finish explaining to me how to do my job.”

Sometimes, I actually am using our policies to make your life difficult because you’ve been rude to my staff

There are things I would keep as an Archivist that I want to dispose of as a Records Manager

When we use ‘archive’ as a verb in a conversation w/ you, we’re making fun of you

If the annual conference were ever held in a dry city, between 3 and 7 people would attend.

I’d rather be reading my comic books than reading professional journals in my time off.

The closed stacks are my personal safe space.

We don’t let visitors in the strongrooms because they might see the buckets for leaks

I have nightmares about HLF Grant Guidance

I only wear the cotton gloves because it’s so cold in here.

If you use a pen in the search room, a kitten dies

I often dream about calm entries and collections spreadsheets

We put in for a grant to catalogue this collection because it’s a trendy subject & so we might get the money.

There are some collections I wish we didn’t have as they are a pain to catalogue and we won’t get funding for them

I made a box fort around my desk b/c I wanted a cubicle in my office.

I sometimes don’t retrieve documents in the proper Health & Safety prescribed way

I can’t lift 40 lb boxes

I’ve had nightmares about being squished in the compact shelving.

I put off watching Downton Abbey b/c other archivists were so gung ho about it. I regret that decision

I secretly love being the only one in the department who knows how to use our complicated digitisation system

I actually kind of like helping with genealogy research.

I detest “National Treasure.

If I wasn’t in denial about all the stuff me + my predecessors *didn’t* save, I wouldn’t be able to function

I have never watched a minute of “Downtown Abbey.” And I do not own a cat.

Sometimes you will have to boutique process a collection you would prefer to torch instead

Sometimes I interpret copyright law that way just to annoy you

I know my brain is shutting down when I decide a collection needs an “ephemera” file

I don’t care for costume dramas even though I’m an archivist.

Finding/creating order out of chaos rings my bell.

Just because I care about history doesn’t mean I care about *your* history

When a parent rings up about their teenager’s homework project I can be less than helpful

No, being an archivist doesn’t mean I specialize in genealogy.

If you pronounce Archivist ‘archive-ist’ I judge you and find you wanting

When another arch says Oh, yr job sounds interesting! they’re rly calc’ing how long until you leave, retire or die

I sometimes just tell people I ‘work for the Council’ ‘cos I don’t want them to tell me about their Family History

I spend most of my office budget on black rubbish bags, biros and sticky labels and call it deaccessioning

knows that #OverlyHonestArchivists not only know all of the skeletons in the closet, but have given each one a call number.

The moldy food in the staff refrigerator is part of our new preservation initiative.

Tired of explaining that we can’t “just put it all online” because of realities like server space and copyright law.

I resist surveying the backlog because I can’t afford the alcohol required if I knew the actual size.

Don’t know the copyright date of a photograph. It’s probably pre-1923, right? Post online!

the impending end of the world means it doesn’t really matter if the plastic isn’t inert

I’m okay with people using “archive” as a verb.

I feel disdain for and rage at librarian colleagues who demonstrate their ignorance about archives and archivists.

We create elaborate and detailed finding aids for collections we know deep in our hearts will never be requested

There wasn’t a fire, but I will say there was.

Trying to figure out what you can and can’t share online w/out legal ramifications can and has reduced you to tears

You see someone using a pen in the reading room, you feel like stabbing them with it. Worse with highlighters. 

“That rare manuscript? Actually, it’s on my nightstand this week.”

Something may end up in “Misc” because we honestly can’t figure out what to do with it

If you’re a jerk to me, I suddenly become much less knowledgable and helpful.

“Oh, it’s no bother, I’ll be here all day….HA, Gotcha!”

We actually have digitized EVERYTHING and could totally make it available on the web tomorrow. Just don’t want to.

The urge to describe everything in hierarchically structured packages is a sickness we must fight to overcome daily.

When accompanied by a big enough pile of money, we’ll take any collection. And jump the backlog line.

I cringe every time I see someone handling photographic materials without gloves – whether I’m at work or not

I’m so tired of explaining to non-archivists that no, I will not be digitizing all of it.

I will never apologize for flagrantly cross-posting on listervs

When I somehow answer a very specific reference question correctly, I call it an “archives miracle.”

I put stuff I want to throw away, but have no context for in a “misc” file b/c what if someone needs it.

You didn’t discover it because I knew it was there all the time

I hate wearing gloves, even if I’m handling photographs. So sometimes I don’t.

Fast tracked all historical photos containing kittehs for digitization. Because I wanted to.

My personal filing is just awful. But I still expect you to use my retention schedules properly.

I judge people by how they organize their documents.

No, student employees, your file-label writing is NOT neat enough. Listen, you should have learned this in grade 2.

Grr. I like it better when no one comes to the archives because I have it the way I like it.

No living person has read the entire OAIS standard.

See also: DoD 5015.2 for records managers

Oh, and I judge people who use the term “archive” incorrectly.

I handled film last week without gloves. AND I’D DO IT AGAIN! Probably not a third time though.

Has more than once wanted to say to a patron “I’m here to facilitate access, not do your research for you”

My family history interests me. Yours, less so.

I got into this stuff because I really liked the metal-edged boxes.

the impending end of the world means it doesn’t really matter if the plastic isn’t inert

We’re tweeting instead of processing.

We will ACTUALLY throw something at you if you refer to “digital preservation” as “digitization”

*All* the cataloguing project titles have been used.

We will want to throw something at you if you refer to “digitization” as “digitalization”.

When you talk to me about your research, I zone out and think of kittens

Sometimes ‘applying our collecting criteria’ is less important than ‘I have lost the will to explain the word no’

We just keep the white lab coats around for when it gets cold in the archives.

What the heck does “authenticity” really mean, anyway?

Deaccessioning is fun.

All of the pictures on my computer are in a folder called “pics”

This is the best and the worst job for someone with OCD

I use EAD every day, and I still don’t fully understand it.

We don’t know anything about the provenance before a project archivist found it in the stacks last year.

Oversize schmoversize

When I wear white gloves I pretend I’m a character on Downton Abbey

We really do enjoy putting things in new folders & removing rusty paperclips. Looks so tidy.

I use MPLP as shorthand for anything done half-assedly

My personal papers are a mess.

Wishing you could discard/sample the boxes of new clippings but unable to b/c the institution wants to keep them all


Yes, you look silly wearing the white gloves

“I’m studying to be an archivist.” “That’s like libraries, right?” “Uhm… sure.”

I’ve eaten a LOT of records in my time (from HenryColesRat

Sometimes it’s just so much easier to tell people you’re a librarian & skip the explanation

most of our “archives” are xeroxes of the who’s who books.

I didn’t correct my aunt when she told her friend I was studying museum science.

Mentioning Derrida makes me take you 50% less seriously


I’m taking your collection because I have to, not because I want it.

“Please allow X days for your boxes to be retrieved” = we have no idea where the hell those boxes are.

Nobody actually knows whether all this SIP/DIP/AIP stuff is going to make any difference for digital preservation.

I’ve changed all the “Unprocessed” collections to “Minimially Processed”

Making the same request three different ways means you will get a response twice as slowly.

I write my diaries with contextual clues for future archivists

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