Archives and Records Management

Good archive and records management is of essential importance to the functioning of society, be it in business, law or public service. It creates greater accountability and transparency, and provides documentary evidence that establishes a tangible link to historic events by providing the raw material of our history and memory. For example, it is from ancient archives that we have gained insight into our ancestors and their civilizations. Archives and records management became critically significant in the 21st century, known as the "information age" (also called the "computer age,") which spans from the advent of the personal computer in the 1970s through to the growth of the internet in the 1990s and the domination of rapid global technology at the turn of the century.

In this context, archiving becomes a central part of the democratic process; it is fundamental to community, culture and personal identity. In a democratic society, archives underpin the citizens' rights and expectations of transparency. The role of the archivist and records manager is to protect this and ensure that information is utilized for the public good. In the United States, records management is thought to have begun in earnest during the 1940s. The size and scope of the government had grown in response to events such as the Depression and World War II. Records management had to contend with this growth and a raft of legislative acts were introduced in an attempt to regulate government information collection. The National Archives were founded in 1934 to administer the federal government's historic records.

In 1942 a proposed act by the U.S. government, the Federal Reports Act, attempted to control the increasing burden placed on citizens and business by government paperwork requirements. The act was not passed, however it marked a number of efforts by Congress that acknowledged the vast and growing amounts of information that were necessary in the United States across public and private life. In the UK, key developments in archives and records management can be traced back to the 1838 Public Record Office Act, the building of the Public Record Office in 1851 and the establishment of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts in 1869. The UK's National Archives were formed in 2003.

Records management changed dramatically in the mid-1990s. Before that, record keeping was mostly paper-based. After this period, it was recognized that electronic management would be more effective in managing the wealth of information that was emerging. Early efforts to manage records in this way were basic and unequal to the task. In 2001, software companies began to take this role more seriously; they placed more priority of mitigating the risks involved with this practice and compliance and disaster recovery procedures were put into place.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Archives and the Public Good: Accountability and Records in Modern Society
Richard J. Cox; David A. Wallace.
Quorum Books, 2002
Archives, Accessibility, and Advocacy: A Case Study of Strategies for Creating and Maintaining Relevance
Welch, Jennifer M.; Hoffius, Susan D.; Fox, E. Brooke.
Journal of the Medical Library Association, Vol. 99, No. 1, January 2011
Closing An Era: Historical Perspectives on Modern Archives and Records Management
Richard J. Cox.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Managing Records as Evidence and Information
Richard J. Cox.
Quorum Books, 2001
Leadership and Administration of Successful Archival Programs
Bruce W. Dearstyne.
Greenwood Press, 2001
Sustaining Community Archives
Newman, Joanna.
Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services, Vol. 25, No. 1, March 2012
Managing Institutional Archives: Foundational Principles and Practices
Richard J. Cox.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Records Management Theory's Dilemma: What Is a Record?
Finnell, Joshua.
Library Philosophy and Practice, June 2011
Collection Development and Maintenance across Libraries, Archives, and Museums: A Novel Collaborative Approach
Edwards, Phillip M.
Library Resources & Technical Services, Vol. 48, No. 1, January 2004
Theoretical Framework and Literature Review in Graduate Records Management Research
Kemoni, Henry N.
African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science, Vol. 18, No. 2, October 2008
The E-Policy Handbook: Rules and Best Practices to Safely Manage Your Company's E-Mail, Blogs, Social Networking, and Other Electronic Communication Tools
Nancy Flynn.
American Management Association, 2009 (2nd edition)
Harboring Data: Information Security, Law, and the Corporation
Andrea M. Matwyshyn.
Stanford University Press, 2009
Public Records and Archives in Classical Athens
James P. Sickinger.
University of North Carolina Press, 1999
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