UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The appraisal of Canadian military personnel files of the First World War Mitchell, Gary A.


Faced with the great and expanding volume of modern records created by government and other bodies, archivists have necessarily had to make choices about what to preserve and what to destroy. The conceptual basis for appraisal and practical implementation of appraisal in any given body of records are still matters not thoroughly worked out by archivists and archives. This thesis examines the conceptual basis of appraisal as it has been revealed in the literature on the subject, and applies to concepts found in the literature to appraisal of World War I military personnel files. The research strategy involves a reading of the professional literature on appraisal to determine the concepts which have been developed to rule the appraisal process, a survey of the disposition of military personnel records by several combatant states during World War I, and an analysis of Canadian military personnel records of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War I. Some attention has been paid to the military historiography and in particular to studies that appear to be relevant to a discussion of appraisal of military personnel records. It was found that by and large military personnel records were not treated as are other personnel or case files, which have rarely been preserved in their entirety by archives. Although the reasons for this are not entirely clear, a study of the CEF military personnel records suggests that they can be objectively analysed in the way archivists have proposed for other records. It is proposed that an initial analysis based on standards contemporary with the records can be undertaken, and a further, later appraisal can be made based on the research use to which the records are put in the interval. As well, the various options open to the Public Archives of Canada, which holds the CEF military personnel records, are discussed.

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