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


Some Uses for Historical Records

Records are deemed to be historical records because they have enduring value. Who are the records valuable to? Who uses them? They are valuable to community members, scholars, students, journalists, genealogists, lawyers, and others who want to know about people, places, and events in the past. They matter to individuals, organizations, communities, and government. How are they used? In a myriad of ways!


  • People tracing their family history
  • People who are restoring their homes or automobiles
  • Artists and craftspeople who create traditional work or who are influenced by the work that was created in the past
  • Collectors who want to authenticate the items in the collections
  • Individuals researching hereditary medical conditions
  • Historical re-enactors
  • Landowners tracing their title to their property


  • Organizations that need to document their legal and fiscal obligations through time
  • Organizations that need to understand the decisions that were made in the past and why those decisions were made
  • Organizations celebrating anniversaries or special events in their past
  • Organizations that are planning for the future and need to learn from the past
  • Organizations creating public relations and marketing campaigns

Young girl exammining historical records

Records are used by and valuable to many members of the community.


Example icon 

*Fifteen bound volumes of surveyors' notes for property in Canandaigua, New York

bound volumes of surveyor's notes

*The Adirondack Mountain Club's file of letters received from members describing their hikes up various mountains.

folder with hike descriptions



  • A community celebrating its heritage and history
  • A community researching the historic preservation of property in a particular area
  • A community using its history and heritage to promote tourism


One particularly important group that creates historical records is government--national, state, and local. Government records with enduring historical value are cared for by a variety of organizations at the local, state, and federal levels. 

Government records allow society to:

  • Document the accountability of government officials
  • Document the rights and obligations of citizens
  • Document decisions and why they were made
  • Document benefits and entitlements
  • Establish legal rights

Examples icon 

* A Cortland County map from 1896, containing maps of each town, insets describing important individuals in the community, and drawings of selected homes and farms. 

* Forty-five printed U.S. Geological Survey maps with handwritten annotations identifying possible Native American burial sites.