The development of archival science and its European dimension

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Intro­duc­ti­on

Anna Chris­ti­na, dear col­le­agu­es,
The the­me of this semi­nar is the deve­lop­ment of an arc­hi­val sci­en­ce, and I am very ple­ased and hono­red having been invi­ted here, on this very spe­ci­al occa­si­on, to dis­cuss with you this deve­lop­ment and par­ti­cu­lar­ly its Euro­pe­an dimen­si­on. Our sci­en­ti­fic dis­ci­pli­ne is in the pro­cess of beco­ming an auto­no­mo­us sci­en­ce inde­ed. Whi­le tran­sfor­ming a craft into a real pro­fe­ssi­on, the arc­hi­val com­mu­nity is deve­lo­ping what was merely an auxi­li­ary sci­en­ce of his­tory into a genu­ine and inde­pen­dent sci­en­ce.

Undo­ub­ted­ly the­re is a spe­ci­fic Euro­pe­an dimen­si­on to this. The roots of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce are Euro­pe­an roots and even in the last few deca­des, in which arc­hi­val the­ory and met­ho­do­logy more or less seem to have Ame­ri­ca­ni­zed, the Euro­pe­an tra­di­ti­on con­ti­nu­es to play an impor­tant role in its deve­lop­ment.
My paper will focus on the roots rat­her than on the pre­sent fru­its of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce. Not only beca­use of the­ir Euro­pe­an cha­rac­ter, but also beca­use they have been the object of my own rese­ar­ch over the last year. I will, howe­ver, not only deal with the ori­gins of what I like to call the cla­ssic para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce, but also with its final des­tiny: its actu­al repla­ce­ment by a new para­digm. And final­ly, I will bri­efly try to iden­tify a Euro­pe­an dimen­si­on in cur­rent rese­ar­ch.

Sci­en­ce

Let me first expla­in to you what I mean by arc­hi­val sci­en­ce and in what ter­ms I want to analyze it in the next thir­ty minu­tes. I am using the word sci­en­ce here not in the strict sen­se of physi­cal sci­en­ce, but as an equ­iva­lent to the bro­ader term sci­en­ce in Fren­ch or Wissen­s­c­haft in Ger­man: as the gene­ral term for a sci­en­ti­fic dis­ci­pli­ne. And I won’t analyze arc­hi­val sci­en­ce here in ter­ms of its appli­ca­ti­on. Arc­hi­vis­ts are used to defi­ne the­ir sci­en­ti­fic acti­vi­ti­es as the occu­pa­ti­on with the hand­ling of arc­hi­val mate­ri­al or somet­hing like that. This kind of vague and prag­ma­tic defi­ni­ti­ons I will try to avo­id. The cler­ks and secre­ta­ri­es of the anci­en régi­me were likewi­se dealing with arc­hi­val mate­ri­al as the­ir suc­ce­ssors who are wor­king in an elec­tro­nic envi­ron­ment. And stric­tly spe­aking, such defi­ni­ti­ons do not actu­al­ly refer to sci­en­ti­fic acti­vi­ti­es, but to a craft. I want to analyze arc­hi­val sci­en­ce in ter­ms of what I con­si­der to be its fun­da­men­tal com­po­nents. And in my view tho­se com­po­nents are:

  •   its object, its fun­da­men­tal enti­ti­es and the­ir inte­rac­ti­ons,
  •   its objec­ti­ve and
  •   its met­hods and tec­h­niqu­es.

Cla­ssic arc­hi­val sci­en­ce

How does arc­hi­val sci­en­ce look like if we cha­rac­te­ri­ze it in ter­ms of object, objec­ti­ve and met­ho­do­logy?
Cla­ssic arc­hi­val sci­en­ce (i.e. arc­hi­val sci­en­ce as it was codi­fi­ed by the 1898 Manu­al of Mul­ler, Feith and Fru­in) iden­ti­fi­es as its object the who­le of recor­ds cre­ated or rece­ived by an admi­nis­tra­ti­on or an offi­cer; and it iden­ti­fi­es the physi­cal item as the fun­da­men­tal iden­tity.  The inte­rac­ti­ons betwe­en the fun­da­men­tal enti­ti­es are con­si­de­red to be orga­nic by natu­re.
The objec­ti­ves are: physi­cal and intel­lec­tu­al con­trol of the docu­ments, par­tly in pre­pa­ra­ti­on of the­ir publi­ca­ti­on.
‘The met­ho­do­logy con­sis­ts of the appli­ca­ti­on of the prin­ci­ple of pro­ve­nan­ce and the prin­ci­ple of the ori­gi­nal order.
Final­ly, the tec­h­nique can be cha­rac­te­ri­zed as the for­mal des­crip­ti­on of physi­cal docu­ments and the­ir arran­ge­ment not accor­ding to the­ir form, but accor­ding to a natu­ral cla­ssi­fi­ca­ti­on, a cla­ssi­fi­ca­ti­on that mir­rors the orga­ni­za­ti­on of the recor­ds cre­ator.
This is, in my view, how cla­ssic arc­hi­val sci­en­ce looks like if we cha­rac­te­ri­ze it in ter­ms of object, objec­ti­ves and met­ho­do­logy. It is a des­crip­ti­on of the cla­ssic para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce.1

The para­digm and the para­digm shift

Dear col­le­agu­es: what is a para­digm? The con­cept of the para­digm has been intro­du­ced by Tho­mas Kuhn in his cla­ssic work on the struc­tu­re of sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­ons, publi­shed in 1962.  Accor­ding to Kuhn, a para­digm is a uni­ver­sal­ly recog­ni­zed sci­en­ti­fic achi­eve­ment that for a time models pro­blems and solu­ti­ons to a com­mu­nity of prac­ti­ti­oners. Appli­ed to a sci­en­ce as such, a para­digm pro­vi­des the expla­na­tory model of a sci­en­ti­fic dis­ci­pli­ne in the spe­ci­fic sta­ge of its deve­lop­ment and defi­nes its fun­da­men­tals.
For Kuhn’s cen­tral the­sis is, that the deve­lop­ment of sci­en­ce is not sim­ply a line­ar pro­cess of knowled­ge accu­mu­la­ti­on but a pro­cess in which nor­mal sci­en­ce and sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­ons alter­na­te. It is a pro­cess, then, in which dif­fe­rent sta­ges can be dis­tin­gu­ished: a pre-para­digm sta­ge, the sta­ge of a sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on, the sta­ge of nor­mal sci­en­ce, the sta­ge of a new sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on etc.
Con­cep­tu­ali­zing cla­ssic arc­hi­val sci­en­ce as a para­digm means: ack­nowled­ging its rela­ti­ve vali­dity. The para­digm of cla­ssic arc­hi­val sci­en­ce is not an eter­nal para­digm, it is the para­digm that models the pro­blems and solu­ti­ons of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce only in its cla­ssic sta­ge of deve­lop­ment.
In the pre-para­digm sta­ge of a sci­en­ce a com­mu­nity of prac­ti­ti­oners comes into exis­ten­ce. The mem­bers of this com­mu­nity apply the­ore­ti­cal con­cep­ts of exis­ting sci­en­ti­fic dis­ci­pli­nes to a new field of knowled­ge. They can­not yet inte­gra­te the­se con­cep­ts into a gene­ral­ly recog­ni­zed the­ory. Then a sci­en­ti­fic achi­eve­ment brin­gs abo­ut a sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on. Part of the scat­te­red con­cep­ts are tran­sfor­med into a new the­ory and in most cases pre­sen­ted in a text­bo­ok. When this the­ory gains gene­ral recog­ni­ti­on, we enter the sta­ge of what Kuhn cal­ls the sta­ge of nor­mal sci­en­ce.2 Nor­mal sci­en­ce is based on an agre­ement by the mem­bers of the com­mu­nity of prac­ti­ti­oners to take a spe­ci­fic para­digm as the star­ting point of the­ir rese­ar­ch and to defend this para­digm aga­inst tho­se who dare to attack it. When nor­mal sci­en­ce can­not give sati­sfying answers to new ques­ti­ons a new sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on is likely to occur.

Sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­ons in the arc­hi­val field

The cla­ssic para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce was nor­mal sci­en­ce for almost a cen­tury.
It gained gene­ral recog­ni­ti­on after a sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on – a para­digm shift — at the end of the 19th cen­tury. It is losing gene­ral recog­ni­ti­on now, hun­dred years later, as the con­sequ­en­ce of a new para­digm shift. It will be fol­lowed by a new peri­od of nor­mal sci­en­ce.

The pre-para­digm sta­ge of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce

Let us first focus on the ori­gins of the cla­ssic para­digm. My recent rese­ar­ch on the deve­lop­ment of arc­hi­val the­ory and prac­ti­ce in the Net­her­lan­ds indi­ca­tes that the Dut­ch Manu­al of 1898 is to be con­si­de­red as its codi­fi­ca­ti­on. Or, to phra­se it in Kuhn’s ter­ms: the publi­ca­ti­on of the Manu­al mar­ked the end of a sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on, a revo­lu­ti­on that inte­gra­ted dif­fe­rent 19th cen­tu­ri­es’ con­cep­ts and tec­h­niqu­es in the field of arc­hi­val arran­ge­ment and des­crip­ti­on, bor­rowed from diplo­ma­tics and admi­nis­tra­ti­ve prac­ti­ce.
The who­le of tho­se 19th cen­tury con­cep­ts and tec­h­niqu­es can­not be con­si­de­red a real para­digm. Every aspect of it was ambi­gu­ous, a mix of two dif­fe­rent appro­ac­hes, the diplo­ma­tic and the admi­nis­tra­ti­ve appro­ach. Gene­ral agre­ement on the appli­ca­ti­on could not be accom­pli­shed. The­re­fo­re I would like to iden­tify this peri­od as the pre-para­digm sta­ge of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce.

What were the fun­da­men­tal com­po­nents of the arc­hi­val dis­ci­pli­ne in its pre-para­digm sta­ge? Lets look at its object, its objec­ti­ves and its met­ho­do­logy. From the diplo­ma­tic point of view its object was the sin­gle diplo­ma. From the admi­nis­tra­ti­ve point of view it was the fon­ds. But, at least in the Net­her­lan­ds, this fon­ds was seen as the who­le of the non cur­rent recor­ds of the com­mu­nity, that is the city, the pro­vin­ce, the sta­te etc., and not as the non-cur­rent recor­ds of the dif­fe­rent bodi­es admi­nis­te­ring this com­mu­nity. The fun­da­men­tal entity was, from the diplo­ma­tic point of view, the sin­gle diplo­ma or regis­tra­ti­on, but from the admi­nis­tra­ti­ve point of view it was the indi­vi­du­al item.

What was the objec­ti­ve of the arc­hi­val dis­ci­pli­ne in its pre-para­digm sta­ge? Looked upon it from the diplo­ma­tic tra­di­ti­on the objec­ti­ve was the cri­ti­cal publi­ca­ti­on of the docu­ments in order to ena­ble his­to­ri­cal rese­ar­ch. Looked upon it form the admi­nis­tra­ti­ve tra­di­ti­on it was the iden­ti­fi­ca­ti­on and the easy con­sul­ta­ti­on of the docu­ments.

Final­ly, arc­hi­val met­hods and tec­h­niqu­es mir­ro­red a mix of two appro­ac­hes too. The diplo­ma­tic appro­ach asked for an all-embra­cing sear­ch for all diploma’s ever issu­ed and the­ir exha­us­ti­ve des­crip­ti­on and – if possi­ble – the­ir cri­ti­cal publi­ca­ti­on in chro­no­lo­gi­cal order. The admi­nis­tra­ti­ve appro­ach asked for the des­crip­ti­on of all seri­es and items of the fon­ds, seen as the who­le of the non-cur­rent recor­ds of the com­mu­nity, arran­ged accor­ding to the prin­ci­ple of the res­pect des fon­ds and the Pro­ve­ni­enz-prin­zip (the prin­ci­ple of pro­ve­nan­ce), appli­ed to the who­le of non-cur­rent recor­ds of such a com­mu­nity.

The sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on

Having cha­rac­te­ri­zed the pre-para­digm arc­hi­val con­cep­ts as well as the con­cep­ts of the cla­ssi­cal para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce, we now can com­pa­re the two and see how revo­lu­ti­onary the para­digm shift has been. All fun­da­men­tal ele­ments of a sci­en­ce — object, objec­ti­ves and met­hods – appa­ren­tly went thro­ugh a pro­cess of re-con­cep­tu­ali­za­ti­on.
The fon­ds and its com­po­nents beca­me the only object of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce and that repre­sen­ted a major shift, par­ti­cu­lar­ly beca­use it went along with the rede­fi­ni­ti­on of the con­cept of the fon­ds itself. The fon­ds was no lon­ger defi­ned as the who­le of the arc­hi­ves of a com­mu­nity, but as the arc­hi­ves cre­ated by each sin­gle body that took part in the admi­nis­tra­ti­on of a com­mu­nity, a re-defi­ni­ti­on which is revo­lu­ti­onary in its con­sequ­en­ces, as I will demons­tra­te.
The item repla­ced the sin­gle diplo­ma or docu­ment as the basic com­po­nent of the fon­ds. This shift was fun­da­men­tal too, clo­sely con­nec­ted as it was with the intro­duc­ti­on of the prin­ci­ple of the ori­gi­nal order, which ori­gi­nal­ly exclu­si­vely refer­red to the item level and to the level of the seri­es of items of the same form of mate­ri­al.
Publi­ca­ti­on of the arc­hi­val docu­ments ceased to be the first objec­ti­ve. It was access and effi­ci­ent con­sul­ta­ti­on of the docu­ments which had gained pri­ority. The bond betwe­en item and fon­ds was allowed to beco­me the inter­pre­ta­ti­ve fra­mework of his­to­ri­cal analysis.
The old met­hods of arran­ge­ment pri­ma­rily accor­ding to form of mate­ri­al and secon­da­rily chro­no­lo­gi­cal­ly or accor­ding to an arti­fi­ci­al cla­ssi­fi­ca­ti­on, were repla­ced by an inte­gra­ted sys­tem of arran­ge­ment in which the spe­ci­alia are arran­ged accor­ding to a natu­ral cla­ssi­fi­ca­ti­on, i.e. a cla­ssi­fi­ca­ti­on deri­ved from the struc­tu­re of the mate­ri­al itself.
The aut­hors of the Manu­al did not expli­ci­tly rede­fi­ne the con­cep­ts of res­pect des fon­ds and the prin­ci­ple of pro­ve­nan­ce. But they did it impli­ci­tly by rede­fi­ning the con­cept of the fon­ds itself.  If you defi­ne the non cur­rent recor­ds of the com­mu­nity as your object, res­pect des fon­ds pre­vents you from mixing up the non-cur­rent recor­ds of two com­mu­ni­ti­es, let’s say: a city and a pro­vin­ce. It allows you, howe­ver, to mix up the non-cur­rent recor­ds of the dif­fe­rent admi­nis­tra­ti­ons of one com­mu­nity accor­ding to the dif­fe­rent aspec­ts of com­mu­nity life docu­men­ted by tho­se recor­ds. It even sti­mu­la­tes you to split up the non-cur­rent recor­ds of one admi­nis­tra­ti­ve body if tho­se recor­ds docu­ment more than one com­mu­nity. Appli­ed to the com­mu­nity-con­cept, the prin­ci­ple of pro­ve­nan­ce is a local prin­ci­ple, lin­king arc­hi­ves, record gro­ups and seri­es to the city, or the regi­on, or the coun­try whe­re the com­mu­nity which is docu­men­ted dwel­ls.
Appli­ed to the non-cur­rent recor­ds of an admi­nis­tra­ti­on, howe­ver, the prin­ci­ple of pro­ve­nan­ce deman­ds the lin­king of a fon­ds not to its geograp­hi­cal but to its admi­nis­tra­ti­ve con­text. It lin­ks the fon­ds not to the pla­ce whe­re the com­mu­nity dwel­ls, but to the arc­hi­ves with which they are orga­ni­cal­ly rela­ted: the arc­hi­ves of its pre­de­ce­ssors and suc­ce­ssors for ins­tan­ce. It refers to the recor­ds cre­ating body or its suc­ce­ssor, irres­pec­ti­ve of whet­her its seat is situ­ated wit­hin the habi­tat of the com­mu­nity or elsewhe­re.
The prac­ti­cal con­sequ­en­ces of the inter­pre­ta­ti­on of the prin­ci­ple of pro­ve­nan­ce in ter­ms of admi­nis­tra­ti­ve pro­ve­nan­ce can­not be dis­cu­ssed here, but it will be cle­ar that tho­se con­sequ­en­ces were tre­men­do­us: the inter­pre­ta­ti­on of the prin­ci­ple deci­ded the ques­ti­on what arc­hi­ves were to be kept by what arc­hi­val repo­si­tory (or city, or pro­vin­ce, or even coun­try!).

The revo­lu­ti­onary cha­rac­ter of the para­digm shift in arc­hi­val sci­en­ce

Having analyzed the revo­lu­ti­onary way in which the cla­ssic para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce set asi­de older pre-para­digm con­cep­ts and met­hods, it is time for us now to look at the para­digm shift of our own deca­de, which in its turn is set­ting asi­de the cla­ssic para­digm.
This para­digm shift has the same cha­rac­te­ris­tics as the para­digm shift that bro­ug­ht abo­ut cla­ssic arc­hi­val sci­en­ce, the same cha­rac­te­ris­tics, actu­al­ly, as any sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on has. As Kuhn taug­ht us, nor­mal sci­en­ce ten­ds to oppress fun­da­men­tal novel­ti­es, till ano­ma­li­es can­not be pre­ven­ted anymo­re from subver­ting the exis­ting tra­di­ti­on. New con­cep­ts are inte­gra­ted in a new para­digm and, final­ly, a shift of pro­fe­ssi­onal com­mit­ments occurs. In our case, the asto­ni­shing deve­lop­ments in infor­ma­ti­on and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on tec­h­no­logy gave bir­th to new ide­as, which at a cer­ta­in point couldn’t be inte­gra­ted anymo­re in the exis­ting arc­hi­val tra­di­ti­on.
In the ear­ly eig­h­ti­es it beca­me cle­ar that the com­pu­ter would affect the arc­hi­val wor­ld tre­men­do­us­ly, but still most arc­hi­vis­ts con­si­de­red the com­pu­ter merely as a tec­h­ni­cal devi­ce. In the ear­ly eig­h­ti­es the Cana­di­an Hugh Taylor was the first to recog­ni­ze that the chan­ges in the arc­hi­val wor­ld gene­ra­ted by new infor­ma­ti­on tec­h­no­logy were not merely tec­h­ni­cal by cha­rac­ter. The ques­ti­on posed in the title of his arti­cle “Tran­sfor­ma­ti­on in the Arc­hi­ves: Tec­h­no­lo­gi­cal Adjus­t­ment or para­digm Shift?”3 was of cour­se a rhe­to­ri­cal one.
Did Taylor read fairyta­les? In that case he mig­ht have read a fairyta­le writ­ten by Janos­ch befo­re wri­ting his arti­cle, the fairyta­le abo­ut elec­tric Lit­tle Red Ridin­g­ho­od. Elec­tric Lit­tle Red Ridin­g­ho­od, or let us in today’s con­text call her mac­hi­ne-reada­ble Lit­tle Red Ridin­g­ho­od, is sent by her mot­her to her mac­hi­ne-reada­ble gran­d­mot­her in order to bring her a basket of bat­te­ri­es. In the forest she meets the mac­hi­ne-reada­ble wolf and … well, I wont give the who­le show away, but in the end, mac­hi­ne reada­ble Lit­tle Red Ridin­g­ho­od and mac­hi­ne reada­ble gran­d­mot­her jump out of the sto­mach of mac­hi­ne reada­ble wolf and they lived long and hap­pily for the rest of the­ir mac­hi­ne reada­ble lives.

Dear col­le­agu­es and fri­en­ds, men are incli­ned to des­cri­be a new wor­ld in ter­ms of the old one, that is what Janosh and his mac­hi­ne-reada­ble Lit­tle Red Ridin­g­ho­od try to tell us. It is the same lesson Hugh Taylor wan­ted to teach us: the new para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce is not the old arc­hi­val para­digm with the word mac­hi­ne-reada­ble stuck to it. The new arc­hi­val para­digm is a new expla­na­tory model for the sci­en­ti­fic field in a new sta­ge of its deve­lop­ment, a model which defi­nes the fun­da­men­tals of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce and which can only do so on the basis of the cla­ssic noti­ons having been reinven­ted and recon­ce­ived.
We can con­cep­tu­ali­ze a para­digm as a lan­gu­age, with an own voca­bu­lary, seman­tics and syn­tax.  New para­dig­ms intro­du­ce new con­cep­ts (con­text, record­ness, recor­d­ke­eping sys­tem, recor­ds con­ti­nu­um) or re-con­cep­tu­ali­ze old ones (record for ins­tan­ce, or pro­ve­nan­ce). The­se chan­ges are so fun­da­men­tal, that two sub­sequ­ent para­dig­ms can­not com­mu­ni­ca­te pro­per­ly: they beha­ve like two dif­fe­rent lin­gu­is­tic sys­tems inde­ed. It is impo­ssi­ble today to make a sys­te­ma­tic and all-embra­cing dic­ti­onary of arc­hi­val ter­mi­no­logy and it is likewi­se impo­ssi­ble to arran­ge recent lite­ra­tu­re on arc­hi­val sci­en­ce accor­ding to a – for ins­tan­ce – the cla­ssi­fi­ca­ti­on used by Duc­he­in in his 20 years old bibli­ograp­hy.

Cha­rac­te­ri­zing the new para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce

It is very dif­fi­cult, then, to des­cri­be the fun­da­men­tals of the new para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce in ter­ms of object, objec­ti­ve and met­ho­do­logy. We are, as David Gracy puts it, like Chris­top­her Colum­bus, in the midd­le of the explo­ra­ti­on sta­ge, in the midd­le of a sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on, and we can’t pre­vent our­sel­ves ful­ly from des­cri­bing the new para­digm in ter­ms of the old one and cal­ling nati­ve Ame­ri­cans Indi­ans and run the risk of being geograp­hi­cal­ly, poli­ti­cal­ly or sci­en­ti­fi­cal­ly incor­rect.

But, dear col­le­agu­es, we must be pre­pa­red to run that risk.

The object of the new para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce is what I call: pro­cess-bound infor­ma­ti­on, that is: infor­ma­ti­on gene­ra­ted by busi­ness-pro­ce­sses and struc­tu­red by the­se pro­ce­sses in order to ena­ble con­textu­al retri­eval with the con­text of the­se pro­ce­sses as star­ting-point. It is what Carol Coutu­re cal­led “fixed orga­nic infor­ma­ti­on”, here in Stoc­k­holm 2 ½ years ago. It is a two­fold object, beca­use it refers to arc­hi­val infor­ma­ti­on and to its gene­ra­ting con­text, the recor­ds cre­ating pro­ce­sses.
The fun­da­men­tal entity is two­fold too: it is the indi­vi­du­al logi­cal docu­ment in its rela­ti­on with the gene­ra­ting busi­ness tran­sac­ti­on.
The objec­ti­ve is more than acce­ssi­bi­lity. It is what I would call arc­hi­val quality, which stan­ds for the tran­s­pa­ren­cy, the stren­g­th and the endu­ring sta­bi­lity of the bond betwe­en the infor­ma­ti­on and the gene­ra­ting busi­ness pro­ce­sses.
The met­ho­do­logy con­sis­ts of the esta­bli­sh­ment, the main­te­nan­ce and the analysis of lin­ks betwe­en recor­ds and recor­ds cre­ators in order to esta­blish, main­ta­in and analyze the aut­hen­ti­city, reli­abi­lity and trus­twor­t­hi­ness of recor­ds.
The cha­rac­te­ris­tic tec­h­niqu­es are the appli­ca­ti­on of mode­ling tec­h­niqu­es and des­crip­ti­ve stan­dar­ds.
Bro­ug­ht abo­ut by the digi­tal revo­lu­ti­on, this new para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce is not digi­tal by cha­rac­ter itself. The second sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on in arc­hi­val sci­en­ce is more than a shift from paper to elec­tro­nic recor­ds, it is a shift from the cla­ssic or modern into what is cal­led the post-cus­to­di­al or, as Ter­ry Cook sug­ges­ted, the post-modern para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce.4  For the first time in its deve­lop­ment, arc­hi­val sci­en­ce is beco­ming a real sci­en­ce. In its pre-para­digm sta­ge it was not a real sci­en­ce at all, in its cla­ssic sta­ge it was not more than an auxi­li­ary sci­en­ce of his­tory, but now, in its post-modern sta­ge it is gaining the sta­tus of a real sci­en­ce, as auto­no­mo­us as the other infor­ma­ti­on sci­en­ces and as auto­no­mo­us as his­tory.

The inte­gra­ti­on of the old para­digm in the new one

Shall the vic­tory of the post-modern para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce be the defe­at of cla­ssic arc­hi­val sci­en­ce? Shall it oust our cla­ssic Euro­pe­an tra­di­ti­on from the cen­ter of the arc­hi­val uni­ver­se to the refu­se dump of arc­hi­val his­tory? Shall our second sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on split the arc­hi­val com­mu­nity in an old and a new wor­ld?
I don’t think the­re is much reason for pessi­mism. A new para­digm brin­gs a new ori­en­ta­ti­on and an exten­si­on of the doma­in and it encap­su­la­tes the old para­digm. The old para­digm is not com­ple­tely set asi­de, but it is inte­gra­ted it in the newly defi­ned doma­in. Let me try to expla­in this to you.
If we look at the object of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce, we noti­ce that the post-modern para­digm pri­ma­rily looks at docu­ments in the­ir logi­cal and dyna­mic dimen­si­ons. But of cour­se this bro­ad view allows a focus on physi­cal docu­ments and sta­tic objec­ts. Wit­hin the doma­in of the post-modern para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce the met­hods and tec­h­niqu­es of the cla­ssi­cal para­digm are still valid in its tra­di­ti­onal field of appli­ca­ti­on.
If we look at the objec­ti­ve of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce, we noti­ce that the dri­ve for esta­bli­shing and main­ta­ining the lin­ks betwe­en the infor­ma­ti­on and the pro­ce­sses that gene­ra­ted the infor­ma­ti­on can also be used for opti­mi­zing acce­ssi­bi­lity.
If we look at arc­hi­val met­ho­do­logy we noti­ce, that the prin­ci­ple of pro­ve­nan­ce and the prin­ci­ple of the ori­gi­nal order have been re-con­cep­tu­ali­zed in ter­ms of quality mana­ge­ment, but that they still can be used to recons­truct a fon­ds in its ori­gi­nal order.

The Euro­pe­an dimen­si­on in arc­hi­val rese­ar­ch

Dear col­le­agu­es, the new para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce is not Euro­pe­an or Ame­ri­can by cha­rac­ter. It is a glo­bal para­digm, and glo­bal will be arc­hi­val rese­ar­ch.
It is not long ago, that arc­hi­val sci­en­ce exis­ted in rela­ti­ve iso­la­ti­on. Rese­ar­ch hard­ly cro­ssed the boun­da­ri­es of a country’s own arc­hi­val tra­di­ti­on. Small sca­le sco­pe, toget­her with the prag­ma­tic ori­en­ta­ti­on of the craf­t­sman arc­hi­vist did not fos­ter the deve­lop­ment of inter­na­ti­onal­ly ori­en­ted rese­ar­ch pro­grams.
When the cla­ssic para­digm began shif­ting, arc­hi­val rese­ar­ch ten­ded to adopt a spe­ci­fic Ame­ri­can cha­rac­ter. It was on the con­ti­nent whe­re elec­tro­nic recor­d­ke­eping had been inven­ted, whe­re the prac­ti­cal and the­ore­ti­cal impli­ca­ti­on of elec­tro­nic recor­ds were first explo­red and addre­ssed, par­tly by the re-con­cep­tu­ali­za­ti­on of the cla­ssic prin­ci­ples and con­cep­ts of the Euro­pe­an arc­hi­val tra­di­ti­on.
But soon ICT also revo­lu­ti­oni­zed arc­hi­val the­ory and rese­ar­ch in Aus­tra­lia and Euro­pe. Nowa­days, the topics of appli­ed rese­ar­ch in the field of elec­tro­nic recor­ds are exac­tly the same here as in Nor­th Ame­ri­ca, as is cle­ar­ly demons­tra­ted by the pro­ce­edin­gs of the 1996 DLM forum on elec­tro­nic recor­ds.5 Publi­ca­ti­ons of ICA-com­mit­te­es fur­t­her indi­ca­te that arc­hi­val rese­ar­ch is inde­ed deve­lo­ping into an inter­na­ti­onal­ly con­duc­ted acti­vity. In doing rese­ar­ch, Euro­pe­an and Ame­ri­can rese­ar­c­hers are res­pon­ding to the same soci­etal deman­ds, are dri­ven by the same con­cer­ns, and are sha­ring the same inte­res­ts.
This does not mean, that in arc­hi­val sci­en­ce the Euro­pe­an dimen­si­on has com­ple­tely disap­pe­ared. The arc­hi­ves of Euro­pe are unique in ter­ms of age and vari­ety, pro­du­ced as they are by a gre­at vari­ety of recor­ds cre­ators and wit­hin the con­text of many dif­fe­rent cul­tu­res. Gene­ra­ti­ons of Euro­pe­an arc­hi­vis­ts have accu­mu­la­ted an impre­ssi­ve cor­pus of knowled­ge abo­ut tho­se arc­hi­ves, abo­ut the his­to­ri­cal and cul­tu­ral con­text of arc­hi­ving and recor­d­ke­eping and abo­ut fin­ding aids and recor­ds retri­eval. With the arc­hi­val met­hods and con­cep­ts of the elec­tro­nic era they have star­ted a pro­cess of rede­sig­ning the tra­di­ti­onal fin­ding aids sys­tems and re-analyzing the con­text of the recor­ds cre­ating pro­cess of our time as well as of ear­li­er ages. I only men­ti­on my own school’s rese­ar­ch pro­gram as an exam­ple. The major sco­pe of this pro­gram, as it was pre­sen­ted by Eric Kete­la­ar last year, is the cul­tu­ral con­text of the record cre­ating pro­cess, that is: the way in which the arc­hi­ving pro­cess, the recor­d­ke­eping fun­c­ti­on and the recor­d­ke­eping pro­ce­sses are influ­en­ced by cul­tu­re: admi­nis­tra­ti­ve cul­tu­re, cor­po­ra­te cul­tu­re, family cul­tu­re, nati­onal cul­tu­re and soci­al and his­to­ri­cal cir­cum­s­tan­ces.6 In this appro­ach pri­va­te per­sons and fami­li­es are as inte­res­ting as for­mal orga­ni­za­ti­ons, on which most Nor­th Ame­ri­can and Aus­tra­li­an rese­ar­ch seems to be focu­ssed.

Dear col­le­agu­es, I now come to my con­clu­si­on. The first sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on in arc­hi­val sci­en­ce was a Euro­pe­an revo­lu­ti­on and the first peri­od of nor­mal sci­en­ce was mainly Euro­pe­an too. The second sci­en­ti­fic revo­lu­ti­on in arc­hi­val sci­en­ce was Ame­ri­can by ori­gin, but the second peri­od of nor­mal sci­en­ce will have a glo­bal cha­rac­ter. Meeting the chal­len­ges of the post-modern para­digm of arc­hi­val sci­en­ce will soon be a sha­red under­ta­king of prac­ti­ci­ans, rese­ar­c­hers and teac­hers from all coun­tri­es of the wor­ld.

(Stoc­k­holm, 1999.)


  1. Van eve­ne­ment naar struc­tu­ur: orde­nen en bes­c­hrij­ven in de eeuw vóór de Hand­le­iding”, in: P.J. Hor­sman, F.C.J. Kete­la­ar en T.H.P.M. Tho­ma­ssen, Tekst en con­text van de Hand­le­iding voor het orde­nen en bes­c­hrij­ven van arc­hi­even van 1898, (Hil­ver­sum, 1998), pp. XXI-XCVIII. []
  2. Tho­mas S. Kuhn, The Struc­tu­re of Sci­en­ti­fic Revo­lu­ti­ons, Chi­ca­go, 1962, 3rd ed. Chi­ca­go, 1996. []
  3. Hugh Taylor, “Tran­sfor­ma­ti­on in the Arc­hi­ves: Tec­h­no­lo­gi­cal Adjus­t­ment or para­digm Shift?”, in: Arc­hi­va­ria, no 25, Win­ter 1987–1988, pp. 12–28. See also: Ter­ry Cook, “From Infor­ma­ti­on to Knowled­ge: An Intel­lec­tu­al Para­digm for Arc­hi­ves”, in: Arc­hi­va­ria, no 19, Win­ter 1984–85, pp. 28–49. []
  4. Ter­ry Cook, “Elec­tro­nic Recor­ds, Paper Min­ds: The revo­lu­ti­on in infor­ma­ti­on mana­ge­ment and arc­hi­ves in the post-cus­to­di­al and post-moder­nist era”, in: Arc­hi­ves and Manus­crip­ts, Vol. 22, No 2, 1995, pp. 300–328.
    (5) Pro­ce­edin­gs of the DLM-Forum on elec­tro­nic recor­ds, Bru­ssels, 18–20 Sep­tem­ber 1996, INSAR, Euro­pe­an Arc­hi­ves News, sup­ple­ment II (1997). []
  5. Pro­ce­edin­gs of the DLM-Forum on elec­tro­nic recor­ds, Bru­ssels, 18–20 Sep­tem­ber 1996, INSAR, Euro­pe­an Arc­hi­ves News, sup­ple­ment II (1997). []
  6. F.C.J. Kete­la­ar, Arc­hi­va­li­se­ring en arc­hi­ve­ring. Rede uit­ges­pro­ken bij de aanva­ar­ding van het ambt van hoogle­ra­ar in de arc­hi­efwe­ten­s­c­hap aan de Uni­ver­si­te­it van Ams­ter­dam op vrij­dag 23 okto­ber 1998, Alp­hen aan den Rijn, 1998. In this con­text, Kete­la­ar ear­li­er refer­red to com­pa­ra­ti­ve arc­hi­val sci­en­ce: Eric Kete­la­ar, “The Dif­fe­ren­ce Best Pos­t­po­ned? Cul­tu­res and Com­pa­ra­ti­ve Arc­hi­val Sci­en­ce”, in: Arc­hi­va­ria 44 (1997), pp. 142–147. []