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Archival Topics and Resources: Overview

Multiple different formats for archival material

Archival materials in the State Archives come in multiple formats.

Archival Basics

Archivists select, preserve, and make available primary sources that document the activities of institutions, communities, and individuals. These archival sources can be used for many purposes, including providing legal and administrative evidence, protecting the rights of individuals and organizations, and forming part of the cultural heritage of society. The modern archives profession bases its theoretical foundations and functions on a set of core values that define and guide the practices and activities of archivists, both individually and collectively. Values embody what a profession stands for and should form the basis for the behavior of its members.

Archivists provide important benefits and services, such as: identifying and preserving essential parts of the cultural heritage of society; organizing and maintaining the documentary record of institutions, groups, and individuals; assisting in the process of remembering the past through authentic and reliable primary sources; and serving a broad range of people who seek to locate and use valuable evidence and information. Since ancient times, archives have afforded a fundamental power to those who control them. In a democratic society such power should benefit all members of the community. The values shared and embraced by archivists enable them to meet these obligations and to provide vital services on behalf of all groups and individuals in society.

This statement of core archival values articulates these central principles both to remind archivists why they engage in their professional responsibilities and to inform others of the basis for archivists’ contributions to society. Archivists are often subjected to competing claims and imperatives, and in certain situations particular values may pull in opposite directions.

Courtesy of the Society of American Archivists