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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The methodology of arrangement: a case study of the Department of the Provincial Secretary of British Columbia Carter, Michael Charles


Arrangement is an important archival activity that precedes other important archival activities including description and access. Its objective is to identify the external and internal structures of a fonds. However, despite its importance, archivists have had difficulty establishing a standard method of arrangement that fully achieves its objective. This study views arrangement as a form of methodology bridging archival theory and practice. Arrangement must therefore be in accordance with archival theory yet be applicable in practical terms. The study first establishes the terms of analysis in regards to archival theory, and, in particular, the concept of the fonds. Difficulties in the practice of arrangement are then examined. These difficulties include (1) identifying the levels of arrangement, (2) identifying when an entity has sufficient autonomy to create a fonds, (3) identifying the provenance of record series that have been in the custody of many agencies, and (4) dealing with the effects that changes to the external structure of a fonds have on record series. The main methods of arrangement, that have been utilized throughout the archival world in the last 50 years, including the record group, fonds method and series system, are then assessed to determine how closely each aligns with archival theory and how well they perform in practical terms. A method of arrangement is then devised using the basic attributes of both the fonds and series system methods. The Department of the Provincial Secretary, of British Columbia, is the subject of a case study to confirm the validity of the methodology. The study first examines the external structure of the Department through the concepts of function, competence and organizational structure. It then studies the external structure through the concepts of functional series and documentary series. The study concludes by examining some of the implications of the method for various aspects of archival practice.

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