Course:1: Archives and Archivists
Lesson:Lesson One: Introduction to Archives and Archivists
Topic:Historical Records


Historical Records

All records are the "by-product" of life's activities--what we do at work, at school and at home; what we do as individuals and as groups. "Historical records" are distinguished from "records" by their enduring historical value. The number of historical records in our communities, states, and nation is enormous, containing billions of pieces of evidence about the past.

Despite its huge size, these historical records give us just a tiny glimpse into the past. Many activities weren't documented, and many sources of information have been lost or destroyed.

Historical records are created by both individuals and groups as part of their normal work. People keep journals, write diaries and autobiographies, record family trees, and save business and personal letters and papers.

Organizations create annual reports, legal contracts, meeting minutes, project files, and other business records. 

When these records are created, they are kept in a specific context and managed within logical groups--like a correspondence file, a series of personal diaries, or a family's photograph collection. Unlike a published book that can stand on its own as an information resource, historical records only make sense when managed and reviewed within their creative and historical context.

So, when historical records are managed as part of a historical records program, they are managed in groups, usually called collections. Collections contain many records, all related to each other.

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Historical Records are unique, unpublished resources that provide facts, opinions, viewpoints, and content that cannot be found in any other resource. Some historical records have intrinsic value.

 Historical document with seals