UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The German registratur Miller, Thea


Registratur is "the regulated processing of business matters in the form of the documents generated by these matters". It is fundamental for recordkeeping and archives in Germany, but little understood outside of the German-speaking world. This lack of understanding creates a barrier to the development of common approaches and international standards, a necessary step towards solving the problems which lie ahead for recordkeeping and archives globally. This thesis examines and explains the concept of Registratur from a series of perspectives set within their general historical framework: the medieval German recordkeeping; the Prussian state administration of the early 19th century; the changes to recordkeeping under the influence of the Buroreform and of later events in post-Second World War Germany. The study of Registratur in Prussia in the 19th century shows that this concept was based on the following elements: (1) file making by business matter, (2) registration, and (3) regulation of the business processes. Although these three elements were only combined and brought to perfection in the classical Prussian Registratur, early forms of them can be studied in the practices of medieval recordkeeping. Despite considerable changes brought on by technological development and by the shifting role of government, the fundamental elements of the classical Prussian Registratur have remained intact in the modern German Registratur, although the Prussian model itself has disappeared. The persistence of these elements is especially remarkable in light of the dramatic deterioration of East German recordkeeping practices immediately following the war, and in view of the pressures experienced by the adoption of electronic data processing technologies in the public administration. German archivists, having left Registratur to the exclusive responsibility of the registrars in the 17th and 18th centuries, rediscovered the importance of Registratur in the late 19th century as their much-loved library-based systems of archival arrangement gradually collapsed. This development is discussed in the final chapter, following the evolution of the concept of Registratur in its historical context. Today the "Principle of Registratur", which derives from the concept, is the standard guiding principle for arrangement and description. The modern concept of Registratur is going to be of great importance for solving the problems currently facing North American recordkeeping and archival work. This thesis concludes that, although the practice of Registratur has little chance of being formally adopted in North America, its conceptual foundations and some of its procedural components are likely to become an integral part of North American and international recordkeeping systems.

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