Lead Archivist

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Job Description

History and Overview of the Kennedy Center

Originally established in 1958 as the National Cultural Center, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was designated as a living memorial to President Kennedy in 1964. On September 8, 1971, the Kennedy Center officially opened its doors. Today, nearly half a century later, the Kennedy Center shines as a national treasure. It strives to be a catalyst for the arts here in D.C., throughout the nation, and around the world through powerful arts education and world-class artistic performances, to fulfill its obligation as a living memorial to the late President Kennedy.

In anticipation of its 50th anniversary, the Kennedy Center is reimagining the patron and visitor experience, as well as how the general public interacts with and accesses the Center’s rich history. The effort to create its first formal archive program is part of a broader, multi-year institutional plan. This plan includes the Center’s new expansion project, the REACH (opening in September 2019), designed to gather and connect the community, and a Design and Development initiative that will upgrade and activate the entire Kennedy Center campus as a living memorial to the late President Kennedy. The establishment of a comprehensive and interactive archive, accessible in-person and online for the Center and community to engage with and learn about the institution’s 50-year history will help to better serve our mission and constituents.

Responsibilities of the Lead Archivist

The Lead Archivist would establish and implement a robust, enduring archives program, including systems and process, within the Kennedy Center. In the first year of this position, with the approaching 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Center in 2021, the Lead Archivist will have an extraordinary opportunity to establish an important institutional program that manages thousands of unique and irreplaceable archival records, raises the profile of the collections, and ensures ongoing preservation of the Center’s legacy. In the next two to four years, the Lead Archivist will be primarily responsible for maintaining and growing the archival collection. Once established, the archives will provide information and historical documentation to serve the work of the organization, including artistic programming, marketing, social media, public relations, fundraising, and outreach. This position will serve to renew and expand the stewardship of the Kennedy Center’s exceptional heritage while creatively employing the information and archival resources that document its history. This position will oversee the archiving team and collaborate with departments across the Center, assisting its mission of informing and educating various audiences about the vision, dedication, and creativity of the United States’ premier performing arts organization and living memorial to President John F. Kennedy.

Primary responsibilities will include leading the work of assembling and processing historical documents within the Kennedy Center and from the public at large, and collaborating effectively across the Kennedy Center staff and with external stakeholders to develop functional archives for broad use and reference.  The Lead Archivist will report to the Vice President of Public Relations and collaborate with other departments, occasionally engaged in dotted-line relationships when working on long-term projects.

Functional Responsibilities

  • Creates a two- to three-year work plan toward establishing the Center’s archives program.

  • Engages in long-range planning activities such as developing a mission statement, collection development policy, access services, and operational procedures.

  • Determines which artifacts are most essential for telling the story of the Center on the occasion of its 50th anniversary (2021-2022 season).

  • Hires an Assistant Archivist and develops an archives team, potentially to include interns, volunteers, fellows, and part-time staff.

  • Supervises day-to-day operations of a large archive.Advises senior management on operational, administrative, personnel and budgetary matters.

  • Oversees accessioning and processing of archival materials.

  • Conducts content appraisal for potential donations/transfers of materials.

  • Identifies material in need of conservation.

  • Develops, updates, maintains, and implements retention schedule for Kennedy Center staff.

  • Collaborates with staff in multiple Kennedy Center divisions and departments as well as the Washington National Opera and National Symphony Orchestra.

  • Collaborates with the Information Technology Division to develop and maintain Kennedy Center Digital Archive.

  • Revises processes to improve efficiency or adapt to new requirements, software, or other operational systems changes.

  • Create and maintain collection(s), finding aid(s), and archives’ database.

  • Analyzes and maps workflows.Develops forms, manuals, work plans, web content and other documentation. Communicates and documents revised processes and procedures.

  • Schedules, assigns tasks, and prioritizes workloads.Sets appropriate goals and deadlines.Ensures timely completion of work.Assigns and monitors progress on work assignments and special projects.Identifies and reports staffing needs to administrative head.

  • Develops and implements creative and inspiring outreach initiatives in collaboration with marketing and public relations.

  • Monitors environment and assesses the condition of archival facilities, reports pest-control and maintenance needs, and makes recommendations regarding utilization of archival space.Contributes to long term planning for expansions and/or relocations.

  • Identifies collection development opportunities.

  • Answers reference queries to support the work of Kennedy Center staff.

  • Assists in identifying and pursuing archive funding sources and formulating budget recommendations to maintain an ongoing archiving program.

Principal Functions of the Job

40%     Establishes a robust and trusted archives program with a well-defined mission and supporting policies, by identifying, processing, preserving and making accessible a large percentage of the Kennedy Center’s collection of analog and digital materials.

20%     Strategically develops strong relations internally across the Kennedy Center and with external stakeholders to establish, maintain and preserve an ongoing archival program.

15%     Supervises archiving staff.    

10%     Manages staff and departmental budgets.

10%     Responds to archival inquiries from Kennedy Center staff and external stakeholders.

5%       Works closely with development department in cultivation of funding sources.

Required Education/Experience

  • 7-10 years of experience in professional level archives work.

  • 4+ years of supervisory experience.

  • Master’s degree in Library or Information Science from an ALA-accredited institution of higher education at time of employment.

  • Knowledge of standard and emerging archival and information science technologies.

  • Demonstrated experience with databases, content management systems, digital asset management systems, film/video elements, and digital formats.

  • Knowledge of and experience in applying metadata standards.

  • Demonstrated interpersonal skills with the ability to function independently and in groups; build and maintain relationships with partners and organization staff; ability to provide exceptional service to a diverse clientele.

  • Demonstrated experience or aptitude for collection development.

  • Knowledge of best practices in basic conservation and preservation.

Preferred Experience and/or Knowledge

  • Experience working in theater or performing arts environment and/or experience working in an organizational or association archive strongly preferred.

  • Experience in budget administration.

  • Experience mounting exhibits.

  • Knowledge of trends, techniques, and methods in digital humanities (e.g., linked data, TEI, crowd-sourced transcription/annotation).

  • Professional involvement with the greater performing arts archives and archivists community.

  • Familiarity with best practices in archival facilities planning.

Work Environment

The work environment characteristics described here are representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job.  Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

The noise level in the work environment:  normal

Travel up to 10% may be required.


The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a world premier performing arts organization and our nation’s cultural center. Diversity is a critical component of our mission, vision, and values. Our staff exhibits a wide variety of perspectives and experiences which enable us to foster and strengthen an environment of diversity and inclusion. We offer a comprehensive range of benefits including medical, dental and vision insurance, paid vacation and sick leave, and a 403(b) retirement plan.

How to Apply

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