Archival Matters

(Title changed in the suspicion that people misunderstand the use here of 'Archives')

Over forty years an archivist, at the India Office Records, 1973-1979, and the Wellcome Library, 1979-2015. Plus extensive experience doing my own historical research in other archives.
The Wellcome Library Blog, on which I occasionally posted on professional matters, now archived via the Wayback Machine,

Gender and Archives
a rather longer version of my presentation at the Genders and Archives workshop at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 21 January 2005

Some favourite archives and resources

My own publications on archives
Descriptive and empirical, rather than theoretical...



SAA Committee on Ethics & Professional Conduct Blog: Statement on Ethical Acquisitions of Campus Protest Materials

About the Records at Risk Fund: 'to provide support for urgent, short-notice interventions to secure the acquisition of vulnerable historical records, in both physical and digital formats, that face immediate peril across the United Kingdom. The fund focuses on categories of records unprotected by legislation such as the archives of businesses, charities and private individuals, acknowledging that archive services and custodians may have limited resources to respond to collections at immediate risk.'

The Modern Endangered Archives Program, a UCLA Library initiative

A useful page from the site of the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick: Things You Need to Know about Archives

Working with Archives – advice and guides: a very useful (and ongoing) collation of links.

Research in Archives: A Beginner's Guide

Working in Archives: advice to those who are beginning to work with historical archives.

Three blog posts by Tom Crane, National Archives Digital, Baffled by Archives 1 and 2 and 3, a very useful discussion of the issues users may have with finding things in archives when they are used to internet search engines.

Local Government Association: An introduction to archives for councils: 'Archives hold the unique and irreplaceable story of organisations, businesses, communities and individuals across the country. The National Archives, as archive sector lead in England, has written this reference guide to help inform LGA members'

What do archivists keep (or not)?: 'Archival institutions are methodically shaped by the decisions of archivists working together with other professionals. They are an intriguing result of both chance and choice, and they don’t keep everything, both by chance and by choice.' One post in a very useful set of Archives FAQs and Facts by the staff of Region of Peel Archives, Ontario.

Why Do Archivists Get Rid Of Things (And Enjoy It)? (goes with the foregoing, sort of)

Please Stop Calling Things Archives: An Archivist’s Plea: 'the over-casual use of the word "archive" as a shorthand to refer to, well, just about anything'. O dear yes.

Marc Reyes, Why do historians go to archives? Hasn’t everything already been digitized?

Why don’t archivists digitize everything?: another invaluable contribution by the staff of Region of Peel Archives, Ontario.

Michelle Caswell, "The Archive" is Not An Archives: Acknowledging the Intellectual Contributions of Archival Studies, Reconstruction Vol. 16, No. 1

Richard Dunley, Jo Pugh, Do Archive Catalogues Make History?: Exploring Interactions between Historians and Archives, Twentieth Century British History, 2021

Missed connections: looking for everything in the archives: 'Archivists are commonly asked by researchers to produce everything available about a particular topic. While understandable from a researcher standpoint, fulfilling the request is a challenge.'

No Love for White Gloves, or: the Cotton Menace: oh dear, so much yes. I give five stars to the repository that has a sink to wash hands before entering the reading room, and null points to the one that doled out grubby ill-fitting white gloves (to consult a collection that had been minimally actually processed). My own blog post on the subject: White gloves are not a sign of good archival/library handling practice.

Itza A. Carbajal, Michelle Caswell, Critical Digital Archives: A Review from Archival Studies The American Historical Review, Volume 126, Issue 3, September 2021, Pages 1102-1120: 'Given the blurring of boundaries between historians and archivists in the digital realm, this article urges historians to pay more attention to discussions surrounding digital records and archival practices emerging from critical archival studies.'

Paper Trails: The Social Life of Archives and Collections; Paper Trails CfP: ‘Hidden Voices’

Royal Historical Society blog: 'Why Archivists Digitise: And Why it Matters'

Cameras in the reading room and the arc of change in archival practice - raises interesting questions, but doesn't mention that there are documents that for reasons of sensitivity may not be photographed, still.


Archive Awareness

Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA)

Archives & Records Association: formed 1 June 2010 with the amalgamation of the Society of Archives with National Council on Archives and the Association of Chief Archivists in Local Government

British Records Association: a charity which aims to promote the preservation, understanding, accessibility and study of our recorded heritage for the public benefit.

H-Info: H-Net list for the history of libraries, archives, document-based cultural repositories, and other information institutions

The Centre for the Historical Record, a new initiative at Kingston University
'promotes collaborative research, knowledge exchange and discussion between historians, archivists, curators, heritage providers and the public'

ICARUS: International Centre for Archives and Records Management Research and User Studies

The Endangered Archives Programme:
'Unless action is taken now, much of mankind’s documentary heritage may vanish - discarded as no longer of relevance or left to deteriorate beyond recovery.'

Investigating the Archive
'This project is designed to examine the role and nature of archives and the debates surrounding their selection, application and interpretation. These debates emphasise the centrality of the archive to life and culture. The project provides space to reflect on archives by taking an interdisciplinary approach to their construction, mobilisation and deployment.'

International Council on Archives

Feminist Libraries & Archives Network

The National Archives blog

The Queer Heritage and Collections Network: a UK-wide Subject Specialist Network that provides training, networking and peer support to people working with LGBTQ+ collections and histories.

Archive Stories 'a website about how to work with creative and non-traditional archives. We wanted to create a space for conversations about archiving beyond institutional archives'.


Catholic Record Society 66th Annual Conference: Hybrid event
22-24 July 2024, Hinsley Hall, Headingley and online

Archives and Records Association UK & Ireland Annual Conference: ‘Climate and Crisis: Tackling It Together’
28-30 August 2024, Birmingham Conference and Events Centre

New Perspectives on Displaced Colonial Archives: Online Workshop
11-12 September 2024

Recording Women in the Early Modern Atlantic World
September 26-28, 2024, Austin TX

Archiving, Memory and Method from the Global South
17-19 October 2024, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

Curtain Up! The Practice of Archiving Performance
British Records Association (BRA) Annual Conference in partnership with the Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC)
29 October 2024, The Gallery, 77 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6EJ

Real-Time History: Engaging with Living Archives and Temporal Multiplicities
19-21 March 2025, German Historical Institute Washington, DC

DigiCAM25: Born-Digital Collections, Archives and Memory
2-4 April 2025, Senate House, University of London


Future of the Archive in the Digital Age

Dead Media Project:
a virtual archive/museum of obsolete methods of recording, storing and disseminating information, from chips on bone to superceded computer chips.

The Internet Archive
'a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.... free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public'

UK Web Archiving Consortium:
'a consortium of six leading UK institutions is working collaboratively on a project to develop a test-bed for selective archiving of UK websites.'


The Fictional World of Archives, Art Galleries and Museums

Pop Archives: Archives and Archivists in Pop Culture


COLLECTIONS: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals. From the Practical to the Philosophical


History of Sexuality Women's History Stella Browne Archival matters Books
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Last Updated 10 July 2024 by Lesley Hall