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Archival Science

October 27th, 2005 · No Comments · PhD Research, Terms & Definitions

The theoretical framework for my research is Archival Science which “studies the characteristics of records in their social and cultural contexts and how they are created, used, selected and transferred through time.” (1)

Artefacts are products of human activity. This can include buildings, pottery shards and other types of functional objects. However, ‘Records’, ‘archives’ or ‘archival materials’ are artefacts in a documentary form. Their primary function is to store information and communicate messages by recording them on some viable medium, whether that is a drawing on a cave wall or a blog posting that is stored on a magnetic disk drive.

Archival Science studies records as process-bound information that is generated in the course of carrying out specific types of inter-connected human activities, whether in a formal business environment or within a personal sphere. Records are captured and stored with the intention of accessing them again at some future date and location whether for emotional reasons, as a memory-aid, as a source of knowledge, as legal evidence, to fulfill a specific business responsibility or to meet general social expectations of accountability. (2)

In short, records or archival materials “function as the memory of individuals, of organisations and of society. Individuals keep records in order to remember, to remind and to be reminded. An organisation needs a corporate memory to allow the organisation to keep running, to be able to make itself accountable and to document its own history.” (3)

The study of records as process-bound information that is managed as memory and evidence distinguishes Archival Science from other types of information sciences.

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1) Ketelaar, Eric. Time future contained in time past. Archival science in the 21st century in Journal of the Japan Society for Archival Science (No. 1, 2004).

2) see Horsman, Peter. Archiveren. Een inleiding. (Stichting Archiefpublicaties, 2004).

3) Thomassen, Theo. ‘A First Introduction to Archival Science’ in Archival Science. 1 (2001), pp. 373–385.