An archive is an accumulation of historical records or the physical
place they are located. Archives contain primary source documents
that have accumulated over the course of an individual or
organization's lifetime, and are kept to show the function of that
person or organization. Professional archivists and historians
generally understand archives to be records that have been naturally
and necessarily generated as a product of regular legal, commercial,
administrative, or social activities. They have been metaphorically
defined as "the secretions of an organism", and are distinguished
from documents that have been consciously written or created to
communicate a particular message to posterity.
In general, archives consist of records that have been selected for
permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring
cultural, historical, or evidentiary value. Archival records are
normally unpublished and almost always unique, unlike books or
magazines for which many identical copies exist. This means that
archives are quite distinct from libraries with regard to their
functions and organization, although archival collections can often be
found within library buildings.
A person who works in archives is called an archivist. The study and
practice of organizing, preserving, and providing access to
information and materials in archives is called archival science. The
physical place of storage can be referred to as an archive (more usual
in the United Kingdom), an archives (more usual in the United States),
or a repository.
When referring to historical records or the places they are kept, the
plural form archives is chiefly used. The computing use of the term
'archive' should not be confused with the record-keeping meaning of
3 Users and institutions
3.2 Business (for profit)
3.7 Web archiving
3.8 Feminist Archiving
5 See also
7 External links
First attested in English in early 17th century, the word archive
/ˈɑːrkaɪv/ is derived from the French archives (plural), in turn
Latin archīum or archīvum, which is the romanized form of
the Greek ἀρχεῖον (archeion), "public records, town-hall,
residence, or office of chief magistrates", itself from ἀρχή
(arkhē), amongst others "magistracy, office, government" (compare
an-archy, mon-archy), which comes from the verb ἄρχω (arkhō),
"to begin, rule, govern".
The word originally developed from the Greek ἀρχεῖον
(arkheion), which refers to the home or dwelling of the Archon, in
which important official state documents were filed and interpreted
under the authority of the Archon. The adjective formed from archive
The practice of keeping official documents is very old. Archaeologists
have discovered archives of hundreds (and sometime thousands) of clay
tablets going back to the third and second millennia BC in sites like
Ebla, Mari, Amarna, Hattusas, Ugarit, and Pylos. These discoveries
have been fundamental to know ancient alphabets, languages,
literature, and politics.
Archives were well developed by the ancient Chinese, the ancient
Greeks, and ancient Romans (who called them Tabularia). However, they
have been lost, since documents written on materials like papyrus and
paper deteriorated at a faster pace, unlike their stone tablet
counterparts. Archives of churches, kingdoms, and cities from the
Middle Ages survive and have often kept their official status
uninterruptedly till now. They are the basic tool for historical
research on these ages.
Modern archival thinking has many roots from the French Revolution.
The French National Archives, who possess perhaps the largest archival
collection in the world, with records going as far back as 625 A.D.,
were created in 1790 during the
French Revolution from various
government, religious, and private archives seized by the
Users and institutions
Reading room of the Österreichisches Staatsarchiv (Austrian State
Archive), in the Erdberg district of Vienna (2006)
Historians, genealogists, lawyers, demographers, filmmakers, and
others conduct research at archives. The research process at each
archive is unique, and depends upon the institution that houses the
archive. While there are many kinds of archives, the most recent
census of archivists in the
United States identifies five major types:
academic, business (for profit), government, non-profit, and
other. There are also four main areas of inquiry involved with
archives: material technologies, organizing principles, geographic
locations, and tangled embodiments of humans and non-humans. These
areas help to further categorize what kind of archive is being
See also: Institutional repository
Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University Regional Archives.
Archives in colleges, universities, and other educational facilities
are typically housed within a library, and duties may be carried out
by an archivist.[page needed] Academic archives exist to
preserve institutional history and serve the academic community.
An academic archive may contain materials such as the institution's
administrative records, personal and professional papers of former
professors and presidents, memorabilia related to school organizations
and activities, and items the academic library wishes to remain in a
closed-stack setting, such as rare books or thesis copies. Access to
the collections in these archives is usually by prior appointment
only; some have posted hours for making inquiries. Users of academic
archives can be undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff,
scholarly researchers, and the general public. Many academic archives
work closely with alumni relations departments or other campus
institutions to help raise funds for their library or school.
Qualifications for employment may vary. Entry-level positions usually
require an undergraduate diploma, but typically archivists hold
graduate degrees in history or library science (preferably certified
by a body such as the American Library Association). Subject-area
specialization becomes more common in higher ranking positions.
Business (for profit)
Archives located in for-profit institutions are usually those owned by
a private business. Examples of prominent business archives in the
United States include
Coca-Cola (which also owns the separate museum
World of Coca-Cola), Procter and Gamble,
Motorola Heritage Services
and Archives, and Levi Strauss & Co. These corporate archives
maintain historic documents and items related to the history and
administration of their companies. Business archives serve the
purpose of helping their corporations maintain control over their
brand by retaining memories of the company's past. Especially in
business archives, records management is separate from the historic
aspect of archives. Workers in these types of archives may have any
combination of training and degrees, from either a history or library
background. These archives are typically not open to the public and
only used by workers of the owner company, though some allow approved
visitors by appointment. Business archives are concerned with
maintaining the integrity of their company, and are therefore
selective of how their materials may be used.
Main article: National archives
Storage facility at the National Archives and Records Administration,
Government archives include those maintained by local and state
government as well as those maintained by the national (or federal)
government. Anyone may use a government archive, and frequent users
include reporters, genealogists, writers, historians, students, and
people seeking information on the history of their home or region.
Many government archives are open to the public and no appointment is
required to visit.
In the United States, National Archives and Records Administration
(NARA) maintains central archival facilities in the District of
Columbia and College Park, Maryland, with regional facilities
distributed throughout the United States. Some city or local
governments may have repositories, but their organization and
accessibility varies widely. Similar to the library profession,
certification requirements and education also varies widely, from
state to state. Professional associations themselves encourage the
need to professionalize. NARA offers the Certificate of Federal
Records Management Training Program for professional development.
The majority of state and local archives staff hold a bachelor's
degree—increasingly repositories list advanced degrees (e.g. MA,
MLS/MLIS, PhD) and certifications as a position requirement or
In the UK, the National Archives (formerly known as the Public Record
Office) is the government archive for England and Wales. The English
Archive is the public archive of English Heritage. The
National Archives of Scotland, located in Edinburgh, serve that
country while the
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast
is the government archive for Northern Ireland.
A network of county record offices and other local authority-run
archives exists throughout England, Wales, and Scotland and holds many
important collections, including local government, landed estates,
church, and business records. Many archives have contributed
catalogues to the national "Access to Archives" programme and online
searching across collections is possible.
In France, the French Archives Administration (Service
interministériel des Archives de France) in the Ministry of Culture
manages the National Archives (Archives nationales), which possess
406 km. (252 miles) of archives as of 2010[update] (the total
length of occupied shelves put next to each other), with original
records going as far back as A.D. 625, as well as the departmental
archives (archives départementales), located in the préfectures of
each of the 100 départements of France, which possess 2,297 km.
(1,427 miles) of archives (as of 2010[update]), and also the local
city archives, about 600 in total, which possess 456 km. (283,4
miles) of archives (as of 2010[update]). Put together, the total
volume of archives under the supervision of the French Archives
Administration is the largest in the world.
In India, the National Archives (NAI) are located in New Delhi.
In Taiwan, the National Archives Administration are located in
Most intergovernmental organisations keep their own historical
archives. However, a number of European organisations, including the
European Commission, choose to deposit their archives with the
European University Institute in Florence.
A prominent Church Archives is the Vatican Secret Archive.
Archdioceses, dioceses, and parishes also have archives in the Roman
Catholic and Anglican Churches. Very important are monastery archives,
because of their antiquity, like the ones of Monte Cassino, Saint
Gall, and Fulda. The records in these archives include manuscripts,
papal records, local Church records, photographs, oral histories,
audiovisual materials, and architectural drawings.
Most Protestant denominations have archives as well, including the
Presbyterian U.S.A Historical Society, The Moravian Church
Archives, The Southern Baptist Historical Library and
Archives, the United Methodist Archives and
History Center of the
United Methodist Church, and the Christian Church (Disciples of
Main category: Film archives
List of film archives
List of film archives and Cinematheque
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October
Non-profit archives include those in historical societies,
not-for-profit businesses such as hospitals, and the repositories
within foundations. Non-profit archives are typically set up with
private funds from donors to preserve the papers and history of
specific persons or places. Often these institutions rely on grant
funding from the government as well as the private funds.
Depending on the funds available, non-profit archives may be as small
as the historical society in a rural town to as big as a state
historical society that rivals a government archives. Users of this
type of archive may vary as much as the institutions that hold them.
Employees of non-profit archives may be professional archivists,
para-professionals, or volunteers, as the education required for a
position at a non-profit archive varies with the demands of the
collection's user base.
Main article: Web archive
Web archiving is the process of collecting portions of the World Wide
Web and ensuring the collection is preserved in an archive, such as an
archive site, for future researchers, historians, and the public. Due
to the massive size of the Web, web archivists typically employ web
crawlers for automated collection.
Similarly, software code and documentation can be archived on the web,
as with the example of CPAN.
The practice of feminist archiving involves identifying how
patriarchal ideologies infiltrate the practice of archiving and
working towards making the archiving practice more inclusive. For
example, when searching in a literary archive, a search for "American
Novelists" will predominately result in all-male authors. A user is
required to search "American Women Novelists" in order to discover
female authors. Feminist archivists note that the need for extra tags
to find women or minorities in archives inherently constructs a
deviation, making the women and minorities appear abnormal compares to
the white male subjects. Jacqueline Wernimont and Julia Flanders are
two leading feminist archivists who work in the field of digital
Some archives defy categorization. There are tribal archives within
the Native American nations in North America, and there are archives
that exist within the papers of private individuals. Many museums keep
archives in order to prove the provenance of their pieces. Any
institution or persons wishing to keep their significant papers in an
organized fashion that employs the most basic principles of archival
science may have an archive. In the 2004 census of archivists taken in
the United States, 2.7% of archivists were employed in institutions
that defied categorization. This was a separate figure from the 1.3%
that identified themselves as self-employed.
Another type of archive is the Public Secrets project. This is an
interactive testimonial, in which women incarcerated in the California
State Prison System describe what happened to them. The archive's
mission is to gather stories from women who want to express
themselves, and want their stories heard. This collection includes
transcripts and an audio recording of the women telling their stories.
The archives of an individual may include letters, papers,
photographs, computer files, scrapbooks, financial records, or diaries
created or collected by the individual – regardless of media or
format. The archives of an organization (such as a corporation or
government) tend to contain other types of records, such as
administrative files, business records, memos, official
correspondence, and meeting minutes.
International Council on Archives
International Council on Archives (ICA) has developed a number of
standards on archival description including the General International
Standard Archival Description ISAD(G). ISAD(G) is meant to be used
in conjunction with national standards or as a basis for nations to
build their own standards. In the United States, ISAD(G) is
implemented through Describing Archives: A Content Standard, popularly
known as "DACS". In Canada, ISAD(G) is implemented through the
Council of Archives as the Rules for Archival Description, also
known as "RAD".
ISO is currently working on standards.
Archive Fever (book by Jacques Derrida)
Computer data storage
International Council on Archives
Preservation (library and archival science)
List of archives and List of national archives
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Look up archive in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Archives.
International Council on Archives
Archives Hub — search across descriptions of archives held in over
280 institutions across the UK
InterPARES Project — international research project on the long-term
preservation of authentic digital records
Access to Archives
Access to Archives (A2A) — the English strand of the UK archives
Online-Guide to Archives around the globe
AIM25 – archives within the UK M25 area.
Archive associated with the University of Kent
Archive of Literacy Narratives
Banco di San Giorgio – Genova Italy:
Archive (1407–1805): nearly
40,000 books catalogued with full description. www.giuseppefelloni.it
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