UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The archival appraisal of architecural records Cheadle, Laura Elizabeth


Architectural records bear evidence of more than the history of design; because the construction process is linked to the social, political, and financial systems of the society in which the building activity takes place, the records also inevitably give evidence of these systems. This thesis maintains that, despite the undoubted value of these records for a diversity of research purposes, architectural records do not exist in significant numbers in Canadian archives, and argues that archivists have a professional responsibility as the makers and keepers of societal memory to encourage the growth of an adequate body of such records. The Canadian system of public archives traditionally acquires records from both public and private sources in order to accurately reflect significant functions within Canadian society; one would therefore expect to find architectural records well represented in public archival repositories. In order to test this supposition, the holdings of these records in national, regional, and local public archives were researched, using the records of British Columbia architects as a case study. The research results indicate that, if the case of British Columbia is typical of other regions of Canada, the records of private architectural practices are not well represented at any level of the Canadian archival system. A contributing factor to this scarcity is the difficulty archivists experience in appraising these records; a lack of reliable reference materials for analyzing such complex and voluminous records inhibits acquisition activity. A major part of the thesis is a functional analysis of the architectural office as a means of providing a key to the provenance of architectural records. A review and assessment of the archival literature of appraisal follows. The study concludes by summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of the literature, and by proposing a means of encouraging the growth of architectural archives.

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