Archives, 2nd edition

May 2017 | 352pp

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Archives, 2nd edition
Principles and practices

Laura A. Millar

This new and extensively revised second edition offers an international perspective on archives management, providing authoritative guidance relevant to collections-based repositories and to organizations responsible for managing their own institutional archives.  

Written in clear language with lively examples, Archives: Principles and practices introduces core archival concepts, explains best-practice approaches and discusses the central activities that archivists need to know to ensure the documentary materials in their charge are cared for as effectively as possible.

Topics addressed include:

  • core archival principles and concepts
  • archival history and the evolution of archival theories
  • the nature and diversity of archival materials and institutions
  • the responsibilities and duties of the archivist
  • issues in the management of archival institutions
  • the challenges of balancing access and privacy in archival service
  • best practice principles and strategic approaches to central archival tasks such as acquisition, preservation, reference and access
  • detailed comparison of custodial, fonds-oriented approaches and post-custodial, functional approaches to arrangement and description.

Discussion of digital archives is woven throughout the book, including consideration of the changing role of the archivist in the digital age.

In recasting her book to address the impact of digital technologies on records and archives, Millar offers us an archival manual for the twenty-first century.

This book will be essential reading for archival practitioners, archival studies students and professors, librarians, museum curators, local authorities, small governments, public libraries, community museums, corporations, associations and other agencies with archival responsibility.


Figures and tables

Foreword to the first edition

Foreword to the second edition


Introduction to the second edition




1. What are archives?

From data to evidence

From evidence to archives

The qualities of archives

Scientific and physical evidence

The precarious nature of documentary evidence


2. The nature of archives

Archives as a continuum of care

Archives and what is left behind

The forms of archives

Archives and art

Archives and artefacts

Archives and the intangible


3. Archival history and theory

Trends in archival history

A brief discourse on archival theories

Challenging archival theories


4. The uses of archives

Archives as sources of history

Archives as tools for accountability

Archives as touchstones for memory and identity


5. Types of archival institution

Institutional archives

Hybrid archives

Collecting archives

Community archives

Museum archives

Integrated institutions

Indigenous archives

Activist archives

Online repositories

Trusted digital repositories


6. The principles of archival service

Archival obligations

The role(s) of the archivist

The archivist as consultant

The education of the archivist

The role of professional associations

The place of standards

The importance of respect


7. Balancing access and privacy

Respecting intellectual property rights

The archivist’s responsibility

Addressing privacy concerns




8. Managing the institution

Imagining the ‘ideal’ organizational structure

Identifying a strategic direction

Establishing a policy framework

Administering the archival institution

Measuring success


9. Preserving archives

What is preservation?

Understanding and responding to hazards

Caring for materials in different media

Digitization for preservation

Preserving digital archives

Developing preservation and emergency response plans


10. Acquiring archives

Appraisal for acquisition

Appraisal for selection

Sampling, weeding and culling

Appraisal and the cost of ownership

Other appraisal considerations

Acquisition and personal bias

Dealing with donors

The process of acquisition

Accessioning archives

Monetary appraisal

Deaccessioning archives

Dealing with the backlog


11. Arranging and describing archives

Principles of arrangement and description

Custodial arrangement and description

Functional arrangement and description

Bridging the gap

Having it both ways `

Controlling language

The practicalities of arrangement

The practicalities of description

Presenting descriptive information

Sample descriptive output


12. Making archives available

Providing equitable access

Establishing a reference and access framework

Providing reference services

Digitization as a reference tool

Documenting reference services

Outreach and community engagement




To learn more

Records and archives journals

Records and archives institutions

Records and archives associations

Additional readings


Glossary of terms



Laura A. Millar is an independent consultant in the fields of records, archives and information management, publishing and education. She has taught records, archives and information management courses in universities and colleges in Canada and internationally and is the author of dozens of books and articles on a range of topics. In 2010, the first edition of Archives: Principles and practices was awarded the prestigious Waldo Gifford Leland Award from the Society of American Archivists in recognition of its ‘superior excellence and usefulness in the fields of archival history, theory, or practice.’

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