| Manuals and textbooks of archives administration and records management: a RAMP study |
|8. Contents of the manuals and textbooks|
This can be divided into:
- history of documents (diplomatic)
- history of archives and archival institutions
- history of archival theory and principles.
History of documents has usually been discussed in the manuals and textbooks only in a national context. German works are particularly thorough in this respect, along with Italian and Spanish publications. In Germany the subject is known as "Aktenkunde" or "Registraturkunde" and covers the study of document types, their forms and the ways of organizing them. H.O. Meisner writes that the word "Aktenkunde" combines diplomatic and research on modern documents (1). In France the history of documents is dealt with in works treating diplomatics, not in manuals of archives administration.
The medieval diplomatics of Harry Breslau's Handbuch der Urkundenlehre fÃ¼r Deutschland und Italien is continued by H.O. Meisner in his Archivalienkunde (the latest edition of his earlier Aktenkunde) for the period from 1500 to 1918. In the lectures on Archivwissenschaft by Johannes Papritz, the two volumes on Organisationsformen des Schriftguts in Kanzlei und Registratur deal with the development of record keeping, combination of the documents to form files, series and registers.
Obviously, in those European countries where there are many older documents in the archives, the emphasis in training is on those documents and on the principles of their arrangement and description. In countries where the documentary tradition is young, more attention is paid to the arrangement and appraisal of current records Of course, all archivists must have some knowledge of the older documents and archives of their own country. But training in paleography, diplomatic and historical sources is sometimes a part of university studies in history.
In addition to the history of record keeping, archivists and users of archives ought to have some knowledge of administrative history and of the records produced by the various administrations.
The history of archives and archival institutions is usually discussed in a rather general way in the manuals and textbooks. The 3rd International Symposium on Archival Training expressed the need, in the interest of both teachers and searchers, to put more emphasis on the study of the history of record keeping and archives at both national and international levels. A good general survey of the subject appears in Eckhart G. Franz's EinfuhrÃ¼ng in die Archivkunde. A lot of facts are provided in Adolf Brenneke's Archivkunde.
Among French manuals only Les Archives - Pourquoi? Comment? (1984) has a historical summary. L'Histoire et ses mÃ©thodes (1973 in a chapter by Robert-Henri Bautier) and Les archives, by Jean Favier, also include chapters on the subject. In Italy, E. Lodolini takes special interest in the historical development of archives.
History of archival theory and principles
Most manuals discuss the history of archival theory only as it is developed in their own country or in countries with the same archival tradition. Muller, Feith and Fruin's manual, however, which deals with the history of archival theory is mentioned in all works.
The French manuals describe the theory and principles which were current at the time of their publication. The history of those theories and principles is set out in the chapters covering the history of archives: however it is more often dealt with in articles appearing elsewhere.
In the Netherlands, P.J. Horsman and J.P. Sigmond produced a reader of archival theory and history of theory called: Het land van herkomst, een reader van artikelen rond het herkomstbeginsel (1983). This gives a summary of their national history and includes the Dutch explanation of the principle of provenance.
The most thorough work to deal with the development of archival theory and the history of archives in various countries is Adolf Brenneke's Archivkunde. which has already been mentioned. Ernst Posner's article Some Aspects of Archival Development since the French Revolution, which was first published in The American Archivist in 1940, (also included in A Modern Archives Reader) should be noted here. These publications do not, of course, cover developments in archival theory postdating World War II.
The comparison of national differences in archives administration is lacking in most works. Apart from Brenneke's historical survey only E.G. Franz and E. Lodolini try to take an international view. It is important for archivists to have a general impression of the development of archives and of the changing nature of their responsabilities. For international cooperation both sides need to know how their practices differ.
In some countries, including North America, the duties of records manager and archivist are separated and it is considered unnecessary to teach modern records management to archivists. Elsewhere (in Europe for instance) records management and archives administration are part of the same profession and this is also the position in most of the developing countries.
In several manuals, records management is not included at all. Most textbooks, if they do deal with the subject, treat only records creation, maintenance, filing, classification and retention schedules, which are discussed mainly from the point of view of archives administration.
In Managing Archives and Archival Institutions, published in 1988 as a collaborative venture of American and British archivists (edited by James Gregory Bradsher), the writer of the chapter "Archivist and Records Management", Karen Dawley Paul, states that archivists have an important and visible role to play in records administration, for instance, as catalysts for rationalizing the management and disposition of records and by promoting archival and records management goals to agency administrators. During records creation, they can provide the archival perspective in theoretical and practical matters and in selecting appropriate storage media for valuable records.
Among European publications, records management is most comprehensively discussed in the works of Michael Cook. A Canadian manual that gives an especially good general view of both records management and archives administration is that of Carol Couture and Jean-Yves Rousseau already mentioned. In a review published in The American Archivist Ann Bowers states: "Perhaps the book's greatest strength is the bridge it offers: both archivists and records managers can learn more about each other's working concepts, principles and procedures by studying this book, thus enhancing our professional accomplishments" (2).
In the United States and Canada methods have been developed for detailed records management analyses and surveys. The life cycle of documents is a concept which can well illustrate the use and preservation of the documents at different ages.
The works described are used not only to instruct the staff of archival institutions, but also the personnel in other organizations. In local and government authorities and in business for example, archivists are frequently responsible for records management too. It may therefore be useful if the training of archivists and records managers is at least partially combined to prepare them for both types of work. In the Netherlands, for example, half of the students who come out of the archive school, will become records managers. In his RAMP study on the curriculum development in records management and archives administration, Michael Cook puts a strong case for planning a common basic professional training for both records managers and archivists and for career structures in these fields to be closely related.
In many countries, separate centres for intermediate records storage have been established. The authorities can transfer non-current records to these record centres, and the appraisal process is carried out there before records that are to be preserved permanently are transferred to the archives repositories. There are several manuals which deal with these record centres, their organization and functions.
The basic topics of archives administration are treated in every general manual and textbook.
As regards appraisal and disposal of records, almost all the new works, which keep appearing in Western Europe and North America, refer to the classic criteria of the evidential and informational value of documents as they are set out in Schellenberg's Modern Archives. Eastern European countries have had, at least until recently, their own disposal criteria which were based on a dialectic materialistic view of history.
Sampling is thoroughly treated only occasionally, although knowledge of the technique, especially with regard to modern documents, is obviously necessary. In this respect the RAMP study edited by Felix Hull: The use of sampling techniques in the retention of records is a useful supplement to other publications. In this context the report of E.G. Franz for the Round Table Conference in Bratislava (1982) could also be mentioned.
The arrangement and description of archives have a central role in every textbook. The basic principles of provenance and of the restoration of the original order are common throughout. Several manuals deal only with this part of archives administration: The Arrangement and Description of Archival Materials, by Hugh Taylor, published in the ICA Handbooks series (Vol 2), should be mentioned here. It has a solid theoretical background and discusses all types of archival material: records and manuscripts and non-paper media such as sound archives, machine-readable records and moving images. The book is aimed not only at archivists, but also at librarians who need to understand the different problems of control and description of archival material. The British publication, a Manual of Archival Description, by Michael Cook and Margaret Procter, gives very practical advice on the description of archives.
Many textbooks do not pay much attention to technical or conservation problems. They just refer the reader to specialist publications, RAMP studies and ICA handbooks for example. While archivists may not need detailed knowledge of the techniques of conservation, restoration, archives buildings or microfilming, they do need a basic knowledge to make planning and policy decisions. The bibliography includes books which deal with the various fields: they are of course primarily to be used for the training of technical staff.
Archivists are becoming increasingly responsible for the administration of machinereadable records, and at the same time the use of the computer for general archival work is constantly expanding. The rapid development of information technology means that the literature becomes quickly outdated. The archivist will have to use specialist works in this area.
More and more attention has been paid to information management and to national information policies which are facilitated by the development of electronic communication. The integration of the information field is reflected in archives, libraries and information services being combined under UNESCO's General Information Programme. In 1987 UNESCO published an International Reader in the Management of Library. Information and Archives Services which aims towards a certain harmonization of the information professions.
It is important for archivists and their colleagues in related disciplines to consider their mutual relationship, to understand which activities are shared and which are peculiar to each profession. Teachers in developing countries have to deal constantly with this issue.
Similarities and differences between archives and libraries are discussed in several manuals, for example in The management of archives, by Schellenberg, and in Archive-Library Relations (1976), edited by Robert L. Clark. Clark chiefly discusses the organisation of American archives and libraries, but also clarifies the similarities and differences in principles and practices of those institutions. Michael Cook has considered archives administration as a part of information management in The Management of Information from Archives. Richard M. Kesner's book Information Systems: A Strategic Approach to Planning and Implementation (1988), also deals with the subject, and the RAMP study, by James B. Rhoads, published in 1983, The role of Archives and Records Management in National Information Systems (also available in French and Spanish) can be recommended as a supplementary reader.
Different types of archival institutions such as national, local or church archives, or the archives of private organizations and their management are described in many manuals and textbooks. They are treated particularly thoroughly, for example, by Eckhart G. Franz and by the Norwegian JÃ¶rgen H. Marthinsen.
The responsibilities of the national archives and other state archives repositories should certainly be discussed in detail. Several textbooks are mainly concentrated on public archives, perhaps because archival training was so far primarily directed towards professionals working in this kind of archival institution. In connection with the acquisition policy, other textbooks describe the need for archives services to act as repositories for private papers and also for archives: oral history. This would seem to be an especially important task in developing countries where there are very few early written sources.
Research services and the preparation of finding aids are important functions of archival institutions. Though archives are arranged and described according to the principle of provenance, expanding research interests often play an important role in planning different types of finding aids. While it is a basic assumption that it is historians who use archives, representatives of quite different fields, for example sociologists, medical scientists, and natural scientists have also become users of archives; a tendency which will increase with the deposit of more machine-readable data archives. Archivists with a traditional training are poorly equipped to serve these new users whose appearance may change the priority of the duties of archival institutions. Even the most recent manuals do not pay as much attention to these developments in the exploitation of archives as might be hoped for. But there are specialist works which deal with specific issues.
A short introduction to basic archival terminology is a useful addition to a textbook. It especially helps foreign readers. In spite of the creditable efforts of the ICA in producing an international dictionary, the professional vocabulary is often confusing and the same term may in different countries have very different connotations. This applies even to the word "archives" itself.
Similarly, terms like "group" and "series", for example, can differ in meaning from country to country, which may create difficulties in using even well-designed manuals and textbooks on an international level. Lack of harmonization in terminology is an obstacle to international cooperation. Glossaries and corresponding international publications on terminology enable archivists to find a common language and thus to understand the differences between their professional traditions.
The 3rd International Symposium on Archival Training included in its recommendations the development of national glossaries on archives with definitions of the various terms. The ICA Dictionary of Archival Terminology provides a good model. In fact, some countries have already published their own dictionaries. In France the Dictionnaire des archives. De l'archivage aux systÃ¨mes d’information. FranÃ§ais. anglais. allemand (Afnor, Paris) appeared in 1991, and in the Netherlands a Lexicon van Nederlandse Archieftermen was published in 1983.
1 H. O. Meisner, Urkunden und Aktenlehre der Neuzeit.
2 The American Archivist Vol. 5, Numbers 1 & 2 pp. 143-144.