Archival Theory Response

In reading the Ridener chapters, I was surprised to find just how complex the theory behind the compilation and maintenance of archives could be.  It had seemed a simple fact that those in possession of important documents and other historically significant items would naturally want to organize and preserve these items.  However, as Chapter 1 tells us, even this apparently simple plan of action is deceptively complex.  Before an archive can be begun, for instance, it is necessary to decide what should be stored there, and what ought to be left out.  These decisions are made based on some degree of appraisal on the part of the archivists.

It was also surprising to find that advancements in technology, which it would seem would always improve the archivists’ ability to preserve the an item and its information, are actually occasionally detrimental to this process.  For instance, with the introduction of the television, many official conversations no longer were accompanied with a written component.  Similarly, the wide-spread introduction of the type-writer made it more difficult for researchers to identify individual writers.  We will have to consider obstacles such as these as we delve into materials for our documentary projects.

Clearly, there is much to be done to build and maintain a useful, successful archive.  However, if we take into account the simple steps listed in the Joffrion PowerPoint, as well as keeping important theoretical considerations in mind, such as those posed by Ridener, we will hopefully be able to add an impressive new batch of projects to the burgeoning WDP archives.


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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