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What are archives? What does a County Archivist do?

What are archives? What does a County Archivist do?
 Cecile Chemin, Regional Archivist
 
Archives are generally described as the accumulated unique records of an individual or institution that warrant permanent preservation because of their value to their creator (Local Government) for their legal, administrative or fiscal purposes or to researchers because of their potential research value.
 
Why are archives so important?
  •  Archives are the raw material of history: they are primary sources
  •  Invaluable tools for the historian
  • They are a sign of transparency: local government’s archives
  • They are a right: notion of public and cultural ownership
  • They are an irreplaceable heritage, making up the history of the population at a local and national level.
  • Archives confer an identity to individuals and groups. Together they are the common inheritance of all humanity.
What harms archives?
 
Archival material is fragile and may deteriorate easily. It has specific requirements and needs to be securely stored and maintained under proper conditions and listed for easy retrieval.
 
Every format has its own environmental requirements:
  •  Parchment
  •  Photographs
  •   Slides
  •  Maps, plans and drawings
  •  Audio and visual material
  •  Electronic formats
  •  Microfilms
Archives should be preserved against:
  •  Light (UV radiation, heat gain)
  •  Fire, or even smoke
  •  High humidity (higher than 60%)
  •  Pollution
  •  High temperature (higher than 20°)
  • Dust
  • Handling
What does a county archivist do?
 
We ensure that, through our work, that the records of today are preserved for future generations. The records can then be used to show the life, ideas and decisions of the original creators, linking the past, present and future.
 
We appraise records with the help of those who originally received, created or/and used them
We arrange and describe these selected records in order to allow efficient and effective access and retrieval.
We preserve records and apply basic conservation techniques to those which are damaged or deteriorating.
We provide expert advice on the care and management of specialized media, for example, electronic records.
We facilitate the work of a variety of researchers with diverse topics of inquiry.
We meet legal obligations in areas such as copyright, patent protection, data protection and Freedom of Information.
We offer records management advice to organizations, as required.
We encourage public awareness of the cultural significance of archives through various outreach activities.
 
 

An article by Regional Archivist Cecile Chemin on the nature of archives and the role of the Archivist.


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