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Towards an archival concept of evidence Meehan, Jennifer

Abstract

Various conceptions of evidence permeate all aspects of archival discourse, but at no point is a concept of evidence directly addressed and explicated in archival terms. While the seeming ubiquity of the term seems to suggest that evidence is, or has the potential to be, an important archival concept, a certain lack of clarification effectively diminishes such importance and furthermore glosses over the complexities of the concept. Moreover, the archival notion of records as a special kind of evidence draws primarily upon other disciplinary conceptions of evidence, which, while emphasizing the scholarly use of records, do not take into proper account the archival use and treatment of records. In considering the concept of evidence in archival discourse, this thesis seeks to clarify the role of evidence as a traditional and contemporary term of archival practice and to further formulate a concept of evidence that is particular to archival practice - that is, an archival concept of evidence. In clarifying evidence as an archival term of practice, this thesis explores how evidence serves to express a certain functionality of records and how a concept of evidence serves to establish certain terms or grounds of archival practice. In considering the potential limitations of evidence as an archival term of practice, this thesis explores the extent to which the archival notion of records as a special kind of evidence draws upon legal conceptions of evidence in general and a highly limited, rule-bound concept of legal evidence in particular. In attempting to formulate an archival concept of evidence, this thesis explores current trends in Anglo-American evidence scholarship that constitute a broader approach to the study of evidence in academic law and traces a broader concept of evidence apart from the legal rules. This thesis then formulates a broader concept of evidence in archival terms and considers its possible applications to and implications for archival practice.

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