Archives can be defined in three different ways depending on the contract:

  1. The Archival program
  2. The building housing archival materials
  3. The Archival materials themselves

Definition of terms

Archives refer to records, usually but not necessarily non-current records, of enduring value selected for permanent preservation.

It can also be defined as a building that houses records of permanent and historical value to an organization.

It can also be defined as records with permanent and historical value of a given organization and it can also be defined as Non-current records that have been identified for preservation because they possess an enduring value. Or it refers to a facility that houses records retained for historical or research value after their primary purpose has been fulfilled.

Archives will normally be preserved in an archival repository.

Archival repository refers to a building or part of a building in which archives are preserved and made accessible for consultation.

Archives management refers to the area of management concerned with the maintenance and use of archives.

Archivist refers to a professional staff member within an archival institution for any aspect of the selection, preservation or use of archival materials. OR it refers to professional personnel who manage Archives or Archival institutions. OR it refers to one who selects, appraise and preserve documents that an institution or organization judges to have historical value.

Record A document regardless of form or medium created, received, maintained and used by an organisation (public or private) or an individual in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business, of which it forms a part or provides evidence.

Record management is that area of general administrative management concerned with achieving economy and efficiency in the creation, maintenance, use and disposal of the records of an organisation throughout their entire life cycle and in making the information they contain available in support of the business of that organisation.

Record Groups are all records from one creating agency or from one origin.

Archives group are records of permanent value which documents specific activities.

Record series is a group of related records, filed together, used together and which can be evaluated together for retention purposes.


Types of Archives

Public Archives

These are official records which have been created by the public sector and they have been managed in their respective registries.

They are agencies that serve public organizations.

Public Archives are normally managed by the National Archives of a given country e.g in Kenya Public Archives are managed by KNAD services.

Public Archives are those records which are created in public organization and institutions and are governed by the relevant legislation e.g.

  1. Archives of government ministries and department
  2. Archives of local authorities and office of the president
  3. Parliament
  4. Electoral commission
  5. Judiciary

Semi-Public Archives

These are Archives of Parastatals institutions which are semi- autonomous or organizations of the government. These Archives are also governed by the Public Legislation e.g. Archives of Telekom, NSSF, NHIF, KPLC, KR and KPA

Private Archives

They are Archival agencies mainly for Institutions and are referred to as institutional Archives. They are records created by the individual private company. Institution or company policies govern political parties and them. The nature of information in these archives is on the functions and activities of these private companies and it is not open to the public for research unless under special permission.

Business Archives

These are Archives of business companies e.g. Archives of NGOS, Private business, Enterprises and other companies which engage in business and commercial activities which are governed by the institutional government policies.

Religious Archives

These are Archives that originate from religious bodies. They document the church, Temples, Mosque and other religious activities such as management of finances, administration growth and expansion of the church membership.

Military Archives

These are Archives records generated by the military forces e.g. in Kenya they include Archives of police force, National Security Intelligence (NSIS), Armed forces (Kenya Army, Navy and Air Forces)

These Archives document military operations such  as Human Resource- Recruiting, training, pension matters, criminal investigations, Fraud, Robbers, intelligence information and administration,. Military Archives contain very sensitive information and hence they should be well managed.

Sources of Archival Materials

Archeological sources

The study of ancient civilization by scientific analysis of physical remains found on the ground.

Oral sources

Information occurs from one generation to another without being written.

Historical sites

These are places / features concerning the past event based on the study of history e.g. fort Jesus


Collection of historical documents/ records and other noon-book materials from the government or private companies.

Current sources of archival materials are: Artificial Collection, Religious Organization, Private business and Semi- public Institution Public institution.

Sources of Archival Materials during pre-colonial period were Anthropology, Oral traditions, Linguistics, Archeological Sources.

Characteristics of Archives

  • They have an enduring value.
  • They have historical value
  • They have an enduring value
  • They have Intrinsic value meaning it cannot be changed whatsoever
  • They are unique because it should not be duplicated elsewhere.
  • They are Supposed to kept in their original form

Importance of Archives

  • For legal purposes e.g. Constitution
  • For administrative purposes e.g. keeping personal files/ documents
  • Financial matters e.g. budgets
  • For historical purposes e.g. photographs and artifacts
  • For National development e.g. census records

Uses of Archival Materials

  • They are used for information purposes because they are referred to for information provision
  • They are used for cultural purposes
  • They are used for leisure and entertainment
  • They are used as proof or compliant purposes because it provides a right to carry out an activity
  • They are used for evidential value for it provides proof of organizations existence.

Classification of Records

Records can be classified according to:

  1. Types 2. Creators 3. Legitimate use 4. State of compilation 5. Importance/ Value 6. Manner of utilization.
  2. Types

Basically records in this classification are in three forms namely:

Paper based records, electronic based records, microform based records.

  1. Creators

Records in this classification are:

Public records Semi-public records

Private records

  1. Legitimate use

Records are opened or closed (restricted) confidential or sensitive.

  1. State of compilation
  2. Semi-current (monthly basis)
  3. Non-current (One in a year)
  4. Daily basis (current records)
  5. Importance/ value

Classification whether record is vital

very important


Non essential


  1. Manner of Utilization

Records have the following

  1. Financial value- Created for accounting and fiscal use (financial statements, tax forms)
  2. Legal value- Created for evidence of business transactions or legal decisions
  3. Administrative value- Created for conducting policy, procedures, and guidelines
  4. Research value- Created to determine trends recent development or new information related to an organization products or services
  5. Historical value- Created to provide a record of organizations past and current activities.

Records Management

Records management refers to that area of general administrative management concerned with achieving economy and efficiency in the creation, maintenance, use and disposal of the records of an organisation throughout their entire life cycle and in making the information they contain available in support of the business of that organisation. Records management emphasizes on: Creation of records, Organization of records, Maintenance and use of records, Retrieval of records and Disposition of records.

Aims and Objectives of Records Management

  1. To control both quantity and quality of records created
  2. To enhance accuracy and thoroughness with records. It ensures that useless records are not created or kept. Even for those that must be kept records management ensures that are kept in the right files and storage facilities.
  3. To simplify the activities, systems and processes of records creation, maintenance and use. In this endeavor, records mangers advice creators of records to use a simple classification system which will make it easy to have records accessed. (a misfiled document is good as a lost document)
  4. To provide operational services to people needing to consult the files such as historians, government officials and researchers.
  5. To provide adequate protection to records against agents of destruction such as rodents, water, sunlight and mishandling. Also aims at providing security against theft, fire and information leakage.
  6. Ensure regular transfer of dormant records from high cost office storage to low cost storage space.
  7. To conduct wise selection of records/materials from either destruction or preservation in national archives
  8. To designate responsibility for the total records management programme within a business to a record manger or trained staff of record personnel.
  9. Ensure continuity of operations of a business in case of a disaster
  10. Establishing guidelines for maintenance, use and control of records.

Information/Record Lifecycle

Information lifecycle refers to the stage through which record goes through from its creation to its final archiving or destruction.

Records do not just materialize on desk, cabinets or computer memories, people create and put them there.

The lifecycle concept development in USA in 1934 and it is based on the idea that recorded information has a life similar to that of a biological organism in that its born (created) lives (maintenance and use) and it dies (disposition).

At every phase of the cycle there are issues to be addressed which impact on efficiency and effectiveness of records management programme. Before creation begins there is a period of conception. This is the time creation or non-creation is debated deliberated when a conscious decision is made whether to create or not to create to avoid unwanted records. If the answer is yes then a record is created.

Basically the concept hold that recorded information has a life similar to that of a biological organism. After a record is created it passes through three main stages/phases namely:

  1. Current/ Active/ Creation phase
  2. Semi-current / Semi Active phase
  3. Non-Current/ In-active phase

Each of these phases have various elements associated with them and functions performed within each element e.g. within creation phase we have got forms, correspondences and reports. In maintenance and use phase we have files, security, vital record storage. In disposition phase we have scheduling, appraisal, archives and disposal.

  1. Current/ Active/ Creation phase

Current/ Active/ Creation phase refers to the formative period of records.

Records created in this stage are frequently referred to on daily basis as they are on high demand. The records are also many as compared to other stages and occupies a lot of space.

Ways that can be employed in record creation

Duplicating the existing records

Photographic records

Writing memorandum

Video tapping or cassette recording


Taking minutes in a meeting

Filing of forms


  • Rate of accumulation is high
  • Frequency of reference is high
  • Needed in the organization for daily transaction. i.e. receipts
  • Found in the office in conducting various transactions of the organization
  • New files are opened and filled in existing classification and filing system
  • Records serves the interest of the creators
  • They are maintained in the registries and offices
  • Records are managed by Documentalist
  1. Semi-current / Semi Active phase

This phase encompasses current and semi current stage. When records become semi current they are transferred to record centers for purposes of economical storage because they are not required on regularly basis. Records in this stage still contain important information to creators can have access to them.


  • Accumulation rate is lower than current phase
  • Compromise of records which relate to the organizations
  • Frequency of usage diminished
  • Level of reference is lower
  • Are maintained in the record centers
  • Records save both the creation and other request
  • Records are managed by records manager
  • Deal with past events of an organization
  1. Non-Current/ In-active phase

This is the final stage of records lifecycle where they have become non-current and no longer referred to by their creators or they are records maintained for legal references, fiscal (financial), research or historical reasons.

At this point, a decision must be made whether to transfer or dispose such records.

N/B records which still contained valuable information (administrative, evidential, research, information value) will be preserved permanently for future reference.


  • Not needed for current news of the organization
  • Creators do not refers to the records
  • Maintained in the archives
  • Managed by the Archivist
  • Records put in a different purpose from its original purpose e.g. research
  • Each record highlight the organization past activities

Manuscript (MS) is a document of any kind which is written by hand or in typescript form and which its form has not been reproduced into multi-copies. Abbreviated (MS) singular (MSS) plural e.g. a manuscript catalogue is written by hand. A manuscript librarian is a librarian who is in charge of a collection of manuscript of all kinds i.e. unprinted materials.

Administrative history is the study of organizations/ institutions origin structures, policies and levels of management, concerned with the management and conduct of affairs. It can also be defined as any information giving the background and evolution of an organization.

An archivist must be well versed in administrative history for a number of reasons:

  1. To enable him understand the agents from which archives come from (source)
  2. To enable him in his arrangement work as he must establish records provenance.
  3. Help him in understanding his collection to enable him prepare effective descriptive tools
  4. To retain the organic nature of the record by linking new records to existing ones
  5. Understand possible gaps in his collection
  6. To prepare access policies

To help him develop comprehensive collection development policies.

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