Friday, October 24, 2014

The Story V. The Reality

A fellow archivist and I saw a job ad for the position of assistant archivist at Tiffany & Co. Now, neither of us knows anyone from their corporate or historic archives, nor do we have any idea of how the institution works. But some job ads just grab your imagination!

This is what we imagined:

Everyone is in pencil skirts and fashionable scarves, wool trousers and silk vests, slender and tall. People bring their lunches in custom bento boxes and sit among the trees on the expansive grounds surrounding the buildings. They go to the City on the weekends, just to get brunch and do some shopping. They ride vintage bicycles to work through their small town streets. The women have long hair which they put up with pencils in a fit of pique while studying design drawings. 

Then, we were laughing because of course no archives is truly like that. It's more like THIS:

It's a faceless concrete box with arrow-slit windows in Jersey, there are backlogs of files and drawings everywhere. No one can find the 1936 Fall catalog even though Jeanette said she put it back. Jeanette, by the way, is the worst. She talks about everyone behind their back, has no sense of how to properly enter metadata into a database, but got hired because she speaks French (she's the daughter of a French farmer's daughter and an engineer from Jersey City, something she keeps a secret). 
The coffee is always bad because Jeff, the head of Decorative Arts, refuses to clean the coffee pot properly, citing potential ruination of his vintage cuff links. Jeff has Pomeranians and is generally horrible to everyone. The previous archivist didn't keep proper accession records so everyone has to work backwards from the old records, making it all ten times harder. The subject of electronic records is being "saved" for the new archivist they're hiring.
The one person of note at this institution is Gwendolyn, the head of the jewelry collections, the irrefutable Queen. Her outfits are simple but impeccable; she carries the same vintage Dior handbag every day because it was her grandmother's. She grew up in Boston but studied at the Sorbonne, and gives Jeanette a withering glace every time she starts talking about how superior the French are at everything. Jeff has been trying to get into her good graces for years; he desperately wants to get out of the document archives and into the museum collections. Unfortunately for Jeff, she knows that his "vintage" cuff links are really late-era reproductions. Gwen never talks about people behind their back, but once complimented your scarf, which you knit yourself, and you almost died. 

1 comment:

wellscai said...

No, you called her Gwen. YOU DON'T CALL HER GWEN.

"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.