Keeping Archives Book Review
- Ellis, Judith, editor. Keeping Archives, 2nd edition. Port Melbourne: D. W. Thorpe and Society of Australian Archivists, 1993.
I admire things Australian. Crocodile Dundee. Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. My sister, niece, and brother-in-law. Mel Gibson. Olivia Newton John. Keith Urban. All these are of Australian provenance. Actually, my sister and niece have an American provenance, but they are now dual citizens, and an unbroken custodial history verifies that their citizenship is authentic. Jenkinson would be proud…
Keeping Archives is a product of Australia, and the work was produced in conjunction with the Society of Australian Archivists. It is an archival manual that covers literally every area of archival theory. It is the second best one volume treatment of archives that I have seen, the best being William Maher's The Management of College and University Archives. I will admit, I am partial to Maher because he addresses the context within which I work. His work was the first work on archives that I read, and what I learned from it has served me well. I do wish the SAA would update that volume, but I digress. Like Maher's work, Keeping Archives is now a bit dated. It contains very little treatment about electronic records because in 1993, electronic records were not nearly the concern that they are now. Additionally, it does not treat EAD, Dublin Core, or other newer standards because they did not exist when this volume was published, but you can't blame the authors for not being prescient.
Despite being a product of Australia, it addresses archival theory in a way that is useful to archivists from other nationalities. Keeping Archives is unabashedly Jenkisonian in its approach to archives and recommends focusing on record series rather than record groups. Despite this fact, the chapter on appraisal and disposal recognizes a distinction between evidential and informational values in records, a distinction that is usually associated with Schellenberg's theories.
In my opinion, the most valuable contribution that this manual makes is its recommendations for constructing the various types of forms and paperwork that an archives needs in order to document its activities. Towards the end of nearly every chapter, the authors provide recommendations, requirements, and examples for constructing these types of documentation. Keeping Archives also has a number of case studies related to archival tasks such as arrangement and description. The book also includes a number of extremely helpful tables. For example, the chapter on finding aids describes the various types of finding aids that are available to archivists. If nothing else, these types of tables are valuable for training student workers about the correct terminology for the various types of finding aids that they create on a regular basis.
Another strength of the book is the chapter on getting organized. Basically, this chapter is a short treatment on managing archival repositories. The author addresses five broad areas that archivists need to manage: yourself, information needed, people, financial resources, and facilities. Particularly helpful are the author's suggestions for organizing yourself. She supplies information that is useful for helping archivists managing everything from time to projects to diet. I would recommend any archivist to at least inter-library loan Keeping Archives, if for no other reason than to read this short chapter on management. Keeping Archives is an extremely valuable book, and new archivists should probably purchase this book as soon as they consume Elizabeth Yakel's Starting an Archives and David Carmicheal's Organizing Archival Records.