Why ‘archiving’ sets my teeth on edge

Is it because it a noun turned into a verb? Possibly. Is it because it is just an ugly sounding word? Definitely. Is it because it is a term used by the IT crowd (except on the BBC, where I don’t think they mention it) for moving information to back up tapes for six weeks? Uh huh. And no, no-one has used it in a blog or post, or an email or a letter that I have received recently, although it has come up in a few student essays. But mostly, it’s because it is such a life cycle concept.

If we think about the records continuum as allowing us to look at records from point of creation to point of dissemination and reuse, and determine how long each record or record type can be kept, then an archive can be determined at point of creation. Regardless of where it resides, in a business system, on a desk or in a drawer, or in the archives proper, it was and is always an archive. All we are doing is moving it around.  We can only archive something, by which we mean send it to storage, either long or short term, if we don’t already see it as an archive. Yes, some records acquire an archival status, but it is not because they have been moved to the archives, but because, during their period of use and existence they have acquired certain values that makes archival retention a sine qua non.




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Archivist, historian, avid reader

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