The Availability, Organization, and Use of Archival Records: A Study of Public Archives Agencies in the Northwestern States of Nigeria

By Maidabino, A. A. | Library Philosophy and Practice, June 2010 | Go to article overview

The Availability, Organization, and Use of Archival Records: A Study of Public Archives Agencies in the Northwestern States of Nigeria


Maidabino, A. A., Library Philosophy and Practice


Introduction

The desire to keep and use records of knowledge and information for reference and permanent preservation can be linked to the earliest time of human history. History has showed how people of the ancient era kept records of their thoughts and experiences on items at their disposal. Clay-tablets, papyrus, cuneiform, palm-trees, bark of trees, animal skins, stones etc, for example, were used for some purposes and historical documentation. With the development of paper and other non-textual documentary forms such as films, photographs, still and motion pictures, videotapes and related machine readable forms, archival records then continue to appear on special physical characteristics.

In the earliest time there was no distinction between record rooms (archives) and libraries, in which sense, archives can be said to have existed for almost as long as records has been kept. Uduigwome (1989) considered archives as the official or organized records of governments, organizations, groups of people and individuals whatever their date, form and material appearance which are no longer needed to conduct current businesses but are preserved either, as evidence of origins, structure, functions and activities or because of the information they contain. Evans (1988) on the other hand described archives as having constituted one of the world's primary sources of information that grew uniquely out of the activities of organizations, institutions, families and individuals. Archives according to him are "records of an entity that have been selected for preservation because they possess enduring value". A record is defined as information created, received and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligation or business" (Cunningham and Philips, 2005). In the context of this study therefore, archival records are non current records of an organization, individuals or families created, received and preserved (by public archives agency) because of their administrative, historical, legal, cultural, or other values. Public archival agencies play a vital role to the community because they promote reliable archival records keeping and maintain a visible, accessible and known collection. To this end, the public archives agencies enables and promotes best practice in the management of government records in all formats from the point of creation for as long as they are required to support the needs of government and the people.

Archives served as vital means for the preservation and presentation of the cultural heritage and National identity as well as tool for administrative efficiency. More so, archives compliments the human memory thereby allowing the flow of recorded knowledge of the past for future use. The effective preservation and use of such recorded knowledge therefore, can greatly influence societal transformation, politically, culturally, administratively and economically. Cunningham & Philips (2005) who quoted (Derrida, 1996) described the roles of archives in democracy which is an important requirement for societal transformation. According to them, "there is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory. Effective democratization can always be measured by the participation in and the access to the archives, its constitution and its interpretation."

Many studies have pointed to the important roles of archival records in societal transformation. Cunningham & Philips (2005) further submitted that, archives have an important role in ensuring national and cultural memory, scholarly research and ensuring an enshrined democracies entitlements of the governed. The quest for democratic principles in Nigeria can be enhance via effective accessibility and use of archival records. Public archives agencies can serve as a means of empowering citizens against potential maladministration, corruption and autocracy which characterized contemporary democracy of Nigerian society. …

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