The Permanence of Provenance: The “Two Traditions” and the American Archival Profession
政大圖檔所 陳勇汀 2014/3/7
國際檔案學 READING NOTE
The Permanence of Provenance:
The “Two Traditions” and the American Archival Profession
Hirsch, R. (2010). The Permanence of Provenance: The “Two Traditions” and the American Archival Profession. Journal of Archival Organization, 8(1), 54-72. doi:10.1080/15332748.2010.486754
政大圖檔所 陳勇汀 2013/9/23
- Historical manuscripts tradition 歷史手稿傳統
- Public archives tradition 公共檔案傳統
- AHA, American Historical Association 美國歷史學會
- PAC, Public Archives Commission 公共檔案委員會
- SAA, Society of American Archivists 美國檔案學會
- This “two traditions” thesis claims that the profession owes its existence to the maturation of distinct historical manuscripts and public archives traditions over the course of the nineteenth century and their subsequent merging during the twentieth.
- The most important aspect of the public archives tradition was its adherence to the principle of democratic public access to records.
- The historical manuscripts tradition focused on the collection, preservation, and dissemination (generally through editing and publication) of artiﬁcial collections of historical materials by historical societies and libraries.
2. THE NASCENT AMERICAN ARCHIVAL PROFESSION AND THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION
- Many historians of American archival practice trace the formation of the modern archival profession back to the establishment of the Public Archives Commission (PAC) at the 1899 conference of the AHA (American Historical Association).
- The PAC stated its goals as:
- “The compilation of information, as full and detailed as possible,
- regarding the particular class of American historical material generally known as archives or public records,
- the preparation of such catalogues or ﬁnding lists as may be deemed useful, and
- the information and improvement, so far as its inﬂuence as an advisory body can be made effective, of methods of publishing, arranging, and preserving ofﬁcial documentary material.”
- The primary goal of the PAC at this point was the passage of legislation that would provide for the adequate preservation of archival material. Toward the end of the decade, under the inﬂuence of historians familiar with European archival practice, the PAC became increasingly convinced that its goals would be best accomplished not just by legislation but also through American adoption of those European practices.
- During the 1909 AHA meeting, Waldo Leland presented one of the ﬁrst papers, “American Archival Problems.” He advocated the adoption of the principle of provenance, ﬁnding nothing more damaging to archives than the application of modern library methods to their classiﬁcation.
在1909 AHA會議中，Waldo Leland發表的「美國檔案的問題」，強調將現代圖書館的分類法應用在檔案上是一大錯誤
- At the second annual conference in 1910, Arnold van Laer noted the need for consensus about the proper methods of archival administration, the presence of signiﬁcant European efforts to preserve modern records systematically, and the unanimity of European opinion in regards to the usefulness of the principle of provenance.
1910年AHA會議上，Arnold Van Laer強調 (1) 檔案管理需要取得共識；(2) 歐洲系統化地保存檔案文獻的重要貢獻；(3) 對於歐洲文獻保存原則有效性的認同。
2-1. Importation of European Archival Practice
- The early members of the PAC were not archivists. Instead, they were historians, like Waldo Leland, John Franklin Jameson, and Charles MacLean Andrews, who became familiar with the concepts of provenance and original order through their extensive use of European archival repositories.
早期的PAC成員是歷史學者，包括Waldo Leland、John Franklin Jameson、Charles MacLean Andrews，這些較熟悉源自歐洲檔案保存觀念的人。
- Jameson gave a speech at the American Library Association (ALA) in 1914, trying to garner its support for a national archival repository.
- According to Andrews, archives differ from historical manuscripts because they are not a “mass of papers and parchments fortuitously gathered and arranged. ... Archives proper are governmental documents only, preserved in ofﬁcial hands arranged in the order and according to the conditions of their origin.”
- In 1913, Leland wrote a report on public archives for the Illinois State Education Building Commission, which outlined, among other things, how public archives would ﬁt into the state’s proposed education building. He drew a sharp distinction between historical manuscripts and public archives, deﬁning historical manuscripts to include any historical material that did not originate from a public ofﬁce.
- As he outlined the rationale for a public archives program, Leland stated unequivocally that it is as much a function of the government to provide for access and preservation of its archives as it is for it to levy taxes and make laws.
- Leland went on to explain that when archives are no longer of great import for administrative purposes, they should be transferred to a central depot “located in the immediate vicinity of the public ofﬁces.” This emphasis on public archives reﬂects one of Leland’s long-standing goals: the establishment of a National Archives in the United States.
- These historians agitated on local, state, and national levels for the scientiﬁc preservation of public records according to the principles of provenance and original order
- This drive toward standardization masked the fundamental conﬂict between Norton’s emphasis on retaining archives for legal purposes and the earlier generation’s goal of facilitating historical research.
3. THE NARRATIVE OF THE “TWO TRADITIONS”
- Richard Berner, a manuscripts librarian at the University of Washington, ﬁrst explicitly articulated the two traditions thesis in 1983 in his book Archival Theory and Practice in the United States: A Historical Analysis.
- In their view, the practices of the historical manuscripts tradition became increasingly inadequate after the exponential growth of personal manuscript collections over the course of the twentieth century.
- Modern Manuscripts, written by Kenneth W. Duckett, covers ... his narration of the history of manuscript collecting and management fails to mention contemporaneous developments in archival theory and practice.
- David B. Gracy began by providing a brief overview of the “two traditions” thesis. Gracy viewed archives’ primary purpose as satisfying the needs of their creating organization, while manuscript collections were maintained to foster research in a given subject area.
- Maynard Brichford said the best way to appraise manuscript collections and single items, is to formulate a coherent, concise, and containable collection policy and stick to it.
- Sue Holbert presumed that every institution “wants to live up to dual responsibilities of preserving historical resources and making them available for research.”
- Berner claims that the manuscripts tradition, which has its roots in librarianship, dominated the ﬁeld until about 1960, after which the public archives tradition assumed primacy. Unlike the historical manuscripts tradition, which evolved in the United States, Berner ﬁnds that the public archives tradition was heavily inﬂuenced by nineteenth-century European archival developments.
- In 1965, T. R. Schellenberg published The Management of Archives did the two traditions deﬁnitively merge into one ﬁeld. The Management of Archives, according to Berner, “is unique in that it addresses problems in the arrangement and description of both public/corporate archives and manuscript collections. Schellenberg’s was the ﬁrst such attempt.”
- O’Toole cited three causes for the recession of the manuscripts tradition: the establishment of the National Archives in 1934, the foundation of the SAA as a breakaway group from the American Historical Association in 1936, and the establishment of the WPA’s Historical Records Survey in 1933 to locate, arrange, and describe public records (and provide jobs).
- Recently, the archival profession has focused its attention on how to appraise and preserve electronic records.
- One result of this new focus is that it has served to underscore the differences in ideology between the two traditions.
4. CURRENT CONFLICTS OF IDEOLOGY
- After their introduction by historians, these traditions developed rapidly into what is now known as the “public archives tradition.”
- Margaret Cross Norton felt that while private archives might be arranged and described according to archival principles, and even housed in the state archives, the state archivist need not be concerned with them, as they are not properly archival.
- From Norton’s writings on archival topics, it becomes clear she viewed archives as legal records and that the historical profession should have no inﬂuence whatsoever on their treatment or retention.
- At this point, most manuscript material is appraised, arranged, and described according to the principles outlined in the various SAA manuals.
- Current practice upholds the argument that the two traditions are no longer distinct in practice, but evidence points to a growing rift between their ideologies.
- Luke Gilliland-Swetland argued that “historical manuscript repositories ... adopted the principle of provenance because it provided a powerful tool for understanding the historical context (rather than the administrative or legal context) in which the materials were created.”
- It also highlights that the divide between the two archival traditions remains today and may possibly even be growing.
- The archival profession will always be made up of people whose titles range from manuscripts curator to institutional archivist, but perhaps instead of focusing on their differences, they can emphasize their common practices instead.