UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Concepts of value in the archival appraisal literature : an historical and critical analysis Klumpenhouwer, Richard


Archival appraisal is the most challenging and at the same time the most improtant task performed by archivists. The complex meaning, varied form, and massive volume of modern documentary information, which now occupies the lion's share of archivists' attention, present immense challenges during the appraisal process. Yet it is precisely these factors which make archival appraisal such an important activity, for it is the responsibility of archivists to preserve and make available a documentary record that is both usable and complete. This thesis works on the premise that archival appraisal involves a process of applying value concepts to the preservation or destruction of records. Therefore, it is a critical examination of the nature and development of value concepts throughout the history of archives in western civilization from the Middle Ages to the recent past. The preservation of archives before the late nineteenth century depended upon the political, legal, and military values of the original record-creators which persisted over a relatively long period of time. From the 1880s to the 1930s, the value of archives as historical sources became dominant and appraisal followed theories of archival administation based on historicist concepts. From 1930 to 1980, the quality and quantity of records being generated by institutions forced archivists to develop management systems for appraisal and to define value which best conformed to the structures and processes of such systems. Especially in the last two chapters, which deal with modern archival appraisal in the United States and Europe respectively, the analysis of theories and practices serves to reveal inconsistencies and problems in the application of value concepts. From such an examination, certain patterns emerge which suggest directions for the future development of archival appraisal theory.

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