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Archives, 2nd edition

May 2017 | 352pp

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9781783302062
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Archives, 2nd edition
Principles and practices

Laura A. Millar

A newly revised edition of the 2011 Society of American Archivists' Waldo Gifford Leland Award winner. 

This new and extensively revised second edition offers an international perspective on archives management, providing authoritative guidance relevant to collections-based repositories and to organizations responsible for managing their own institutional archives.  

Written in clear language with lively examples, Archives: Principles and practices introduces core archival concepts, explains best-practice approaches and discusses the central activities that archivists need to know to ensure the documentary materials in their charge are cared for as effectively as possible.

Topics addressed include:

  • core archival principles and concepts
  • archival history and the evolution of archival theories
  • the nature and diversity of archival materials and institutions
  • the responsibilities and duties of the archivist
  • issues in the management of archival institutions
  • the challenges of balancing access and privacy in archival service
  • best practice principles and strategic approaches to central archival tasks such as acquisition, preservation, reference and access
  • detailed comparison of custodial, fonds-oriented approaches and post-custodial, functional approaches to arrangement and description.

Discussion of digital archives is woven throughout the book, including consideration of the changing role of the archivist in the digital age.

In recasting her book to address the impact of digital technologies on records and archives, Millar offers us an archival manual for the twenty-first century.

This book will be essential reading for archival practitioners, archival studies students and professors, librarians, museum curators, local authorities, small governments, public libraries, community museums, corporations, associations and other agencies with archival responsibility.

 

PART I: ARCHIVAL PRINCIPLES

1. What are archives?

  • From data to evidence
  • From evidence to archives
  • The qualities of archives
  • Scientific and physical evidence
  • The precarious nature of documentary evidence

2. The nature of archives

  • Archives as a continuum of care
  • Archives and what is left behind
  • The forms of archives
  • Archives and art
  • Archives and artefacts
  • Archives and the intangible

3. Archival history and theory

  • Trends in archival history
  • A brief discourse on archival theories
  • Challenging archival theories

4. The uses of archives

  • Archives as sources of history
  • Archives as tools for accountability
  • Archives as touchstones for memory and identity

5. Types of archival institution

  • Institutional archives
  • Hybrid archives
  • Collecting archives
  • Community archives
  • Museum archives
  • Integrated institutions
  • Indigenous archives
  • Activist archives
  • Online repositories
  • Trusted digital repositories

6. The principles of archival service

  • Archival obligations
  • The role(s) of the archivist
  • The archivist as consultant
  • The education of the archivist
  • The role of professional associations
  • The place of standards
  • The importance of respect

7. Balancing access and privacy

  • Respecting intellectual property rights
  • The archivist’s responsibility
  • Addressing privacy concerns

PART II: ARCHIVAL PRACTICES

8. Managing the institution

  • Imagining the ‘ideal’ organizational structure
  • Identifying a strategic direction
  • Establishing a policy framework
  • Administering the archival institution
  • Measuring success

9. Preserving archives

  • What is preservation?
  • Understanding and responding to hazards
  • Caring for materials in different media
  • Digitization for preservation
  • Preserving digital archives
  • Developing preservation and emergency response plans

10. Acquiring archives

  • Appraisal for acquisition
  • Appraisal for selection
  • Sampling, weeding and culling
  • Appraisal and the cost of ownership
  • Other appraisal considerations
  • Acquisition and personal bias
  • Dealing with donors
  • The process of acquisition
  • Accessioning archives
  • Monetary appraisal
  • Deaccessioning archives
  • Dealing with the backlog

11. Arranging and describing archives

  • Principles of arrangement and description
  • Custodial arrangement and description
  • Functional arrangement and description
  • Bridging the gap
  • Having it both ways `
  • Controlling language
  • The practicalities of arrangement
  • The practicalities of description
  • Presenting descriptive information
  • Sample descriptive output

12. Making archives available

  • Providing equitable access
  • Establishing a reference and access framework
  • Providing reference services
  • Digitization as a reference tool
  • Documenting reference services
  • Outreach and community engagement

Conclusion

To learn more

  • Records and archives journals
  • Records and archives institutions
  • Records and archives associations
  • Additional readings

Glossary of terms

Laura A. Millar is an independent consultant in the fields of records, archives and information management, publishing and education. She has taught records, archives and information management courses in universities and colleges in Canada and internationally and is the author of dozens of books and articles on a range of topics. In 2010, the first edition of Archives: Principles and practices was awarded the prestigious Waldo Gifford Leland Award from the Society of American Archivists in recognition of its ‘superior excellence and usefulness in the fields of archival history, theory, or practice.’

PART I: ARCHIVAL PRINCIPLES

Part I addresses the theoretical, conceptual and philosophical issues associated with archives: their creation, management and use.

 1. What are archives?

In Chapter 1, the concept of archives as documentary evidence is examined, by tracing a path from the communication of an idea, to its capture as information, to the retention of that information as evidence and then to its preservation as archives. The chapter also discusses the importance of content, context and structure to the authenticity and reliability of records and archives. It ends with a comparison of documentary evidence, scientific evidence and physical evidence and with a discussion of the perilous path from data to archives.

2. The nature of archives

Chapter 2 looks at the nature of archives, starting with the ideal scenario in which archives are managed as part of a continuum of care. Millar then turns to reality, considering how archives might be defined on the basis of what is left behind, not on what should have been kept. The form of archives, or, more appropriately, the fact that documentary evidence can take many forms, is also considered. Millar looks then at the relationship between archives, art and artefacts and ends the chapter with a reminder that archives are only the smallest portion of the residue of our lives. Much that is intangible still has much value, even if not defined as ‘archival’.

3. Archival history and theory

Chapter 3 highlights significant events in archival history, from the time when archives were only used by records creators to the time when the public began to use archives for historical research. The evolution of life cycle and continuum approaches to archives is outlined, and the impact of postmodernism on archival thinking is addressed. Millar connects those historical events to archival theories, explaining the principles of provenance, original order and respect des fonds, as well as the concept of a functional, series-based approach to archival management and the notion of a records continuum. The chapter also looks at how those theories are being challenged, as archivists debate whether they remain relevant today.

4. The uses of archives

Chapter 4 looks at archives from the perspective of the user. Archives can be sources of history, whether for professional, amateur or family and personal reasons. Archives also serve as tools for accountability, providing evidence to uphold the law or provide proof of infractions. And archives serve as touchstones for memory and identity, finding value as sources for scientific research, social and political studies, popular fiction and film and, ultimately, as a window into the lives of others.

5. Types of archival institution

Chapter 5 outlines different types of archival institution, specifically: institutional archives, hybrid archives, collecting archives, community-based archives, museum archives, integrated institutions, indigenous archives and activist archives. Millar also addresses the rise of online repositories and suggests we need to distinguish data or records ‘warehouses’ from trusted digital repositories; it is the latter that archivists are striving to create in order to manage electronic evidence safely.

6. The principles of archival service

In Chapter 6, Millar looks at the fundamental principles of archival service, outlining standards of practice she hopes archivists will embrace, above and beyond existing codes of ethics. Millar also comments on the education of the archivist, the role of archival associations and the nature and purpose of records and archives standards.

 7. Balancing access and privacy

Chapter 7 ends Part I by looking specifically at the legal and ethical requirements of balancing access with privacy. How does the archivist address copyright and intellectual property requirements? How does the archivist provide equitable access to holdings and still respect the rights not only of records creators but also of those identified in archives, who may wish to remain invisible to the world?

PART II: ARCHIVAL PRACTICES

Part II introduces ideas about the strategic, operational and logistical issues associated with archival practice.

8. Managing the institution

The focus on archival practice begins in Chapter 8 with a discussion of the tasks involved in managing the archival institution itself. What is the ideal organizational structure for an archival operation, and how can the archivist identify the right strategic vision for her own institution? What policy framework is needed, and how should the archival institution be administered, from finances to facilities to staff? 

9. Preserving archives

Chapter 9, reviews concepts and best practice requirements for archival preservation, emphasizing the need to ensure the security and sustainability of the environment in which archives will be housed. Millar identifies specific archival hazards, such as: acidity, fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity, excessive light levels, pollution, fire and water damage, biological agents such as mould, insects and rodents, and abuse and mishandling. For each hazard suggestions are made for mitigating the risk. Millar also offers guidance about the management of different media materials, considers digitization as a preservation tool, and offers a short introduction to the challenge of preserving digital archives. The chapter ends with suggestions for developing preservation and emergency plans, both of which are critical tools for ensuring archival holdings are kept safe.

10. Acquiring archives

In Chapter 10, the acquisition of archives is examined, starting with a discussion of the two aspects of appraisal: appraisal for acquisition and appraisal for selection. The advantages and limitations of sampling, weeding and culling are considered, along with other appraisal criteria that the archivist should take into account. Millar explains the different ways archival materials can be acquired, including transfer, donation, loan and purchase; outline the legal and administrative process of accessioning archives; and consider the work involved in deaccessioning archives that the archivist decides do not belong in the institution. The chapter concludes with a brief look at the thorny topic of monetary appraisal.

11. Arranging and describing archives

In Chapter 11, Millar revisits some of the theories and principles introduced in Chapter 3, including provenance and original order, in order to consider how they work, or do not work, in practice. Two sometimes competing philosophies with a direct impact on arrangement and description – custodial and post-custodial archives management – are examined. Millar then explores the challenge of controlling language when describing archival materials, which is important to providing quality access and reference. The practicalities of arrangement and description are outlined, followed by a discussion of the ways in which descriptive information might be presented for research use.

12. Making archives available

Chapter 12 looks at how archivists can and should make archives available for use, considering not only the role of reference services but also the importance of outreach and engagement. Creating an effective frame - work for reference and access is addressed, along with a discussion of issues associated with providing personal or virtual reference services. The role of  digitization as a reference tool is examined, and the importance of documenting reference services is emphasized. The chapter ends with suggested ways in which the archivist can engage with the community, including through online and social media applications, to support research use and to raise awareness of the archives and the archival institution.

Conclusion

The book concludes, as the first edition did, with a brief speculation on where archives and archivists are going as we pursue this new digital frontier. As society begins to embrace the ‘internet of things’, and our refrigerators and garage doors start to communicate with us while we are on vacation, will the archivist of the future be capturing evidence of spoiled milk in the fridge or the damage wrought (at least where I live, here in western Canada) by black bears digging for breakfast in our garbage cans?