Archival Theory Response

Archival theory is certainly something I’ve never thought about before. I guess I just sort of figured that people took primary sources and organized them according to date and author and that was that. I’ve never thought about archives or how they work at all, really. I had no idea there was so much controversy around deciding what gets archived and what doesn’t, not to mention the intense process of deciding how to best organize everything within an archive an procure materials. I’ve always taken for granted that there are so many materials available without thinking about how they got there or the work undertaken to preserve them. I thought the concept of respect des fonds was interesting, and really does make sense, although I have to wonder if that’s the best way for things to be organized if someone would prefer to look by subject or something and the particular originator of the documents touched on many different areas. I was a bit uncomfortable with the concept of appraisal, though. I know that there are some documents that are clearly pivotal (such as the Declaration of Independence), but I would personally have a really hard time assigning different values to things like oral histories. I have a difficult time thinking of one person’s story being more valuable than another’s, and appraisal seems as though it is more willing to regard people with different levels of importance, which is extremely difficult for me. I’m probably showing my ignorance of how archives work right now, having never used them in Swem or elsewhere. I can understand why archives are so important though, and I’m really looking forward to visiting and hopefully using them.


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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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