Archives & Documentation

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archives and documentation

Background information from Wikipedia:


Document science: earliest theoretical foundations of modern information science. Emerged late 19th century in Europe. Purpose was to organize scholarly literature.


Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine  - fathers of information science with the founding of the International Institute of Bibliography (IIB) in 1895. Documentalists emerged after theSecond World War, most notably Suzanne Briet.


Documentalists emphasized the utilitarian integration of technology and technique toward specific social goals. According to Ronald Day, "As an organized system of techniques and technologies, documentation was understood as a player in the historical development of global organization in modernity – indeed, a major player inasmuch as that organization was dependent on the organization and transmission of information."[20]

Like many early European Documentalists, Briet embraced modernity and science. However, her work made a difference to modernism and science through the influence of Frenchpost-structuralist theorists and her strong orientation toward humanistic scholarship. She subsequently ushered in a second generation of European Documentation and introduced humanistic methods and concerns, especially semiotics and cultural studies, to information science.



  • Waldo Gifford Leland: instrumental in the development of archival profession early 20th century. His concerns - archival description, introduced European ideas and principles to archival community in US.
    • Historian. worked at Carnegie Institution (CI) 1903-28.
    • J. Franklin Jameson director of CI


  • 1884 American Historical Association formed
  • 1895 Historical Manuscripts Commission formed
  • 1899 Public Archives Commission formed
  • 1909 Conference of Archivists formed, turned into Society of American Archivists


  • 1903-1920 Leland and Jameson campaigned hard for a national archive and more robust archival repositories around country (to support historical scholarship). Developed documentary guides to archival materials dispersed around the country.
  • 1903, 1907-1914 - Leland studied European archival practice in French repositories. Stated working on the Guide to the Materials...
  • 1932, 1943 Guide to the Materials for American History in the Libraries and Archives of Paris (Leland) published


  • 1904 The Guide to the Archives of the Government of the United States in Washington (Leland and Claude Halstead Van Tyne) published


  • ? Calendar of Manuscripts in Paris Archives and Libraries Relating to the History of the Mississippi Valley to 1803 (Leland)


  • Leland was in favor of the principles of Dutch archivists Muller, Feith, Fruin - Manual for the Arrangement and Description of Archives. (Respect des fonds, not bibliography manuscript approaches)
  • Leland did not question applying European archival concepts to American records even though there were differences (American did not have registry systems and promotion of objective standards/shared principles created narrow orthodoxy in Amer. archival practices which excluded history and experiences of minority groups and cultures)
    • Question today, still remains: how to balance precision/prescriptiveness required to ensure consistency/quality control in description and data transfer with the toleration/inclusion of alternate cultural practices and specific community needs to support diverse creators and users


  • 1910 International Congress of Libraries and Archives
    • Leland attended, one of 4 reps. from the AHA. This congress was organized by the International Institute  for Bibliograph (IIB). Leland reiterated that Americans should use European methods and practices
    • Dunbar Rowland, Director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History also presented at the congress. Made clear desire of US Archives to be part of an international uniform initiative (classification), European led
    • Muller, Feith and Fruin were in attendance
    • Concept of provenance as the basic rule of the archival profession was adopted


  • The Dutch Manual 
    • Produced for the Dutch Association of Archivists with State Archives of Netherlands and Ministry of the Interior
    • Influenced by French archival theory
    • delineated/defined respect des fonds and provenance (first time)
    • Schellenberg it is the "bible for modern archivists"
    • 1940 - published in the US


  • IIB and Documentation Movement 
    • IIB established in 1895 (Brussels)
    • Paul Otlet and Henri-Marie Lafontaine  - movt's founders
    • sought to develop master classification system that would serve as architecture for a master bibliography of the world's accumulated knowledge in all documentary forms AND support goals of social democracy and pacifism.
    • Otlet created the Universal Decimal Classification, one of the first examples of faceted classification
    • IIB became International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID)
    • IIB met to study matters of classification and international organization of bibliography
    • side note - Dewey Decimal system created in 1876
    • scope of documentalist perspective on administrative documentation in many ways presaged ideas about the integration of recordkeeping functions, activities and practices that were not fully expressed within the archival community until records continuum 1990s!
    • 1920 on - "documentation" encompassed bibliography, scholarly information services, records management and archival work
    • 1925 - Otlet differed from Leland - American documentalists should not be influenced by European ways, but forge their own way
    • first attempt to develop universal classification scheme inclusive of archival ideas and principles
    • unprecedented interaction between archivists, librarians and museum professionals -  Europe and America
    • establishment of UNESCO and International Council of Museums (1946) and International Council on Archives (1948)


  • Archival Legacy of the 1910 Congress of Librarians and Archivists 
    • Around WWI, the movt. for universality of description, integration of types of resources and potential of new technologies moved apart and became more distinct in their specializations and more nationally based.
    • IFLA formed
    • International Council of Museums and International Council on Archives formed


  • Documentalists lost international focus between the two World Wars but archivists remained preoccupied with international issues
  • Concern with recovery and making available displaced records
  • 1946 Solon Buck (US National Archivist)in favor of creating an archives as part of UNESCO. Wrote that the legacy of the 1910 Congress was that librarians withdrew, archivists remained.
  • 1946 - International Documentation Conference. Leland attended. Final resolutions: FID to work closely with UNESCO and remain in charge of the development of the Universal Decimal Class. and wanted cooperation with ISO on standardization of documents, and training to be developed in documentation...


  • The American Documentation Institute 1935 (now ASIS&T)
    • Between two world wars, documentation in decline in Europe, on the rise in America
    • Watson Davis visionary behind American Document. Inst., Director of Science Service (institution to increase and improve dissemination of scientific and technical information. Served as president of American Docu. until 1945
    • 1920s Davis began to wonder about a method for putting books and manuscripts into compact and portable form  - similar to motion picture films. Was major proponent for microfilm. Wanted to bring European ideas about documentation to America
    • Buck was also part of this institute, also Tate and Schellenberg from National Archives
    • 1937, announcements about the institute went out major scientific journals/newsletters
    • 1937, first World Congress of Universal Documentation in Paris - Otlet, Briet, Jenkinson. Called for microfilming services to be established by libraries. Facilitated publication and distribution of scholarly papers, through microfilm (abstract published with an ADI number where person could get paper for a fee)
    • 1945 Waldo Leland president
    • 1946 Watson Davis president
    • 1949 Vernon Tate
    • 1951 journal - American Documentation, became Journal for the American Society for Information Science and Technology
    • Americans did not continue to be active participants in FID, ADI was more interested in methods and microfilm that bibliography and classification
    • 1950s - became membership based/ emerging field of information science took over legacy of documentation movement


  • After WWII (lots of records from WWI and depression era around)  National Archives delved into records management approaches, articulating appraisal criteria and internal descriptive practices


  • 1949 National Archives subsumed under General Services Administration (emphasis on records management and efficiency  in record keeping; engagement in documentation movement ceased


  • SAA developed close ties with ARMA and ALA


  • 1942-1972 Farmington Plan: major cooperative microfilm acquisitions initiative to ensure access to research materials and publications regardless of war or other events (Leland involved) It failed.


  • Education of documentalists....schools of library and information science...1990s significant numbers of archival education programs, perhaps iSchool movement is the bridge between education of different types of documentation and different disciplinary fields and their information practices


  • 1962 Watson idea of one big library through a cooperative "net" published by means of film


  • recent years American archivists have re-connected with international archival and documentation communities - due to confluence of technological, ideological, professional and logistical factors


  • since 1980s archivists have come together with bibliographic description and other infor. experts in national/international groups to work on development and implementation of descriptive formats, frameworks and data models, MARC, FRBR, RDF etc.


  • records managers and archivists are also now more aligned because of digital record issues and continuum based approach


  • archivists should: never lose sight of grand vision; contribute more to the world than just staying afloat; acknowledge power of individual initiative; have support for a vision or initiative; never underestimate relevance of international engagement; internationalization does not mean homogenization