Towards an archival concept of evidence

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Abstract

Evidence is an important concept for archivists at the same time that it is a hard one to pin down in so many words. Our understanding tends to suffer from a general assumption that the notion is somehow self-evident (that we know what we mean without having to spell it out), as well as from a narrow conceptualization that inextricably links the notion with legal rules, accountability, and corporate memory. With the renewed interest in and debate surrounding the subject in recent years (especially since the advent of electronic records), it is important for archivists to clarify and elaborate on our ideas of evidence and to work towards formulating our own concept with a meaning expressed and explored in archival terms. This paper seeks to do so by tracing an archival concept of evidence as a relation between record and event (drawn from legal conceptions of evidence as a relation between two facts), by considering the concept's various assertions about the nature of records and certain archival processes, and by imagining the possible applications and implications of the concept as a term of archival thought and practice. In the end, this paper does not seek to offer a singular archival meaning of evidence so much as to begin a line of inquiry that hopefully opens up our understanding of evidence and leads to different discussions of some of the key ideas informing and shaping our individual and collective practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-146
Number of pages20
JournalArchivaria
Volume61
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Library and Information Sciences

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