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Archival Science 1: 57-82, 2001.

9 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.


A c c e s s - the r e f o r m u l a t i o n o f an archival p a r a d i g m

BismarckstraJ3e 32, 35037Marburg, Germany. E-mail:

Abstract. The focus of archives is shifting from storage to access. This shift changes
fundamentally the views of archival thinking and of the difference between past and future.
Archivists become specialists who provide means for the use of time, and do not just offer past
times themselves. The author argues that the access paradigm reinforces the theoretical challenges as well as the pragmatic implementation of archival methods and ideas. She discusses
the consequences for archival theory and for the methodologies of description, appraisal and

Keywords: access, archival science, memory, paradigm shift

1. Introduction

The future has rarely been as open as today. That is the result of fundamental
changes in the near past. The shock waves caused by the collapse of the
socialist block did not yet calm down. The existence of a block of socialist
states, governing half of the world definitely is over. It is the past. But that
past still influences the present. The future seems to need thorough preparation and planning. Yet prognosis needs diagnosis. Planning for the future and
understanding its perspectives needs knowledge about what happened when
and why.
In this political and social context archives have attracted new attention.
Records of suppressive regimes are left over in more or less huge quantifies. In Germany the records of the ancient secret service, which had tried
to inspect and influence the whole life of the people in the eastern socialist
state, are now open and can be inspected in a special institution and a law was
passed that allows us to investigate them. The records of the whole administration of that vanished state were transferred to the state archives and there
they are free for consultation without the normally observed closing period
of thirty years. Repositories nowadays have to make available huge masses
of records. All these papers allows everybody to know what happened. They
give access to the past to support present knowledge and so they assure the
capability of common remembrance.
Another development stressing the importance of archives is the introduction of information technology in all areas of social live. Computers



meanwhile are indispensable means of daily communication and they are

no longer only storage devices for data. With the networked interconnections they have generated a third form of communication besides the oral
speech and the written messages. This third form has special characteristics.
Electronic writings and messages have the volatility of oral communications but at the same time they have the stability of analog writing because
they can be distributed to anybody like paper letters and their copies. The
communication is even less controllable by the author of a message as it was
the case with analogue letters because their distribution is much easier and
needs less special logistics. Those are new encouraging and also frightening
experiences. These effects of the technical developments create insecurity
concerning the capability of remembrance. With the new instability the
concern for memory becomes more stressing.
But what is memory? It is a social, not a technical phenomenon. Memory
is needed, when activities are about to be undertaken. Than it happens or
is done. Memory is not a thing like a book or a recording that could be
stored. Both are useful to make memory possible, but they cannot replace
it. Memory happens whenever it is needed. It uses all sorts of sources that are
available and that can tell its history. They all are investigated for the purposes
of memory grounded in a special situation and the attention is not focussed
only on what is presented and offered as sources.
Storage is one technique - but only among others - to assure the capability
and functioning of memory. Storage of content represented in recordings and
data has the disadvantages that it needs planning for the future and anticipation of its needs. But the future is unpredictable as are its needs of knowledge
about the past. Reconstruction, which is especially used and elaborated in
historical research, can be seen as a supplementary or even largely used technique for building memory especially when explanations of what happened
are needed. Reconstruction takes the opposite direction compared to storage.
It looks exclusively at the past, while storage only sees the presumed future.
This is more secure, because the past is definitely there. It is finished and
cannot be altered any more. So reconstruction starts in the present and looks
at the past. If memory cannot be stored, than reconstructability becomes an
alternative approach. It becomes an important concern of archivists. Potential
sources can facilitate later reconstruction if they are prepared to tell their
story. Digital recordings cannot assure their own longevity with technical
methods of refreshing or migration as well as they cannot incorporate their
own trustworthiness (Lynch, 2000). So reconstructability meanwhile also
became subject of scientific research on longevity with the help of emulation
strategies (Rothenberg, 1999).



Archives do not store memory. But they offer the possibility to create
memory. Their function is that of amnesia prevention. They allow us to
construct memory, refine it, correct it or reassure it whenever it is needed.
This is reflected by the new developments, that let the focus of archives shift
from storage to access and that influence all areas of archival work. The main
service that archives offer to the emerging global societies is access to the raw
material for memory, and thus they guarantee the capability to construct and
shape memory in a way that helps us to understand the present problems and
prepare us for the future.
These developments shed light on a new public awareness for archives.
They focus attention on the capability to give access to whatever information
about the past can be found, even if that past is still very near. This new
attention is not without influence on the archives themselves. Public interest
in archives needs response from their side. Archives are seen either as secret,
dusty and chaotic or as open, transparent and clear. This image cannot be
influenced by marketing strategies such as expositions about historical events
or with special precious objects. Archives are not needed as historical institutions, especially when historical research at the universities is reaching a level
of professionalization with which they cannot compete. But they are needed
as providers of access to the past so that everybody can investigate it for his
own questions. Archive that provide service on a high professional level get
the image of useful social institutions that can be trusted.
Access in the following is understood as the key that allows archives to
acquire a profile as service oriented competent professionally managed institutions. It changes fundamentally the views of archival thinking and supports
the shift from the difference between past and future to the new difference
of closed or available which roots the archival profession definitely in the
present. Archivists than accept the function as those specialists that provide
means for the use of time, and do not just offer past times themselves. As
a theoretical paradigm access does not directly concern the service for the
users. Yet it places emphasis on the service quality of the repositories. Every
archival function can be conceived in a new way that makes it even better
organizable and achievable in the daily practical work, if it is subordinated
to the aim of making the holdings available. Here starts the reformulation of
the archival paradigm, that changes but also reinforces the fundaments and
principles of archival professionalism. That is the subject of the following



2. A new approach to archival thinking and practice

After intense discussions on appraisal during the 80s and 90s meanwhile
more emphasis is put on description of archives. The broad availability of
the intemet offers new ways of presenting archival materials to the public.
Especially interesting is the technique that offers the possibility of structured
presentations using hyperlinks and navigation tools. It is extremely efficient
for archives.
The access paradigm changes the place of the difference between past
and present inside the archival thinking. Archives that see their main task
in preserving the past for the future become invisible in the present, when
support for creating an own memory is needed. Archival claims towards
administrations to record present events and activities for future use do not
achieve what they are meant to. Such recordings anticipate later questions
and forget those of today. The focus on access does not abolish the difference
between past and future. Instead it is the only way to make it usable. Because
with this neutral approach using the difference between open and closed both,
past and future, become technical distinctions that help to identify the time
dimension as accessible for interpretation and understanding.
Past and future have the meaning of technical concepts if both are seen as
distinct from present and as indicating time-zones during which things cannot
be altered. Changes can be brought only to present actions. Only at present
can things be done. Afterwards they are done. And before they happen they
can be anticipated or planned. The distinction between those two times during
which things cannot be changed and are therefore different from the present,
can be drawn by the fact that past affaires can be identified because they
are finished and have got their final shape while future events are not yet
known. Past than even defined itself by those things, events, and actions, that
cannot be changed any more while future things do not exist yet. The difference between past and future is central for archival theory. This difference
is the only means by which time can be captured and reconstructed. Traces
fixed in time open insight into their relations. The comparison between the
situation before an event and after it happened shows a development and
gives indications for the reasons of change. This is a prerequisite for the
investigation in archives. The investigation tries to distinguish between intentions and their results. If an annotation to a text is made to make someone
else write a new version both represent intention and effects and they can
be compared to show, how the intention worked. For this aim however, the
actions that made the archival records emerge, need to be finished before
they can be interpreted. Intention and effects have to have left fixed traces.
Only than they can be interpreted and understood. That is the reason and
also the theoretical and practical distinction between records management



and archives. This distinction opens the records for insight by third parties,
who gain all the possibilities of questioning and investigation and protect
them at the same time from becoming part of and being involved with the
activities, since participation is opposite to understanding and both cannot
be done at the same time. Only this distinction enables archivists to act as
consultants towards records management instead of doing it themselves.
The difference between openness and closure remains the fact, that even
if archives make information accessible, they do not contain or store it - but
give access to it. Open archives mean availability of answers. But the answers
and all information gained from archives are worked out by the users themselves. Their investigations, interpretations, and combinations produce the
information in form of new knowledge that answers their questions. Archives
cannot be read. They have to be understood. Archives provide information
potentials, not the information itself. And they enable the investigation. This
is the main target of the access paradigm. Those who need information should
know where they can find which potential sources and how to investigate

2.1. Access as form and attitude

Access is not the actual use of archives. Access as a paradigm is neutral
to the very content which might be of interest for a single researcher or a
group of users. It is a form and an attitude. As a form it allows everyone
who is interested in the archives to get access and to read and interpret the
records according to his own needs. The users themselves are responsible for
the content, that they find in the records. The contribution of the archivists
just consists of making the material available and offering the infrastructure
that facilitates the handling of the material. Access as attitude means that
archivists accept the competence of the users regarding their own research
area. They do not give support to understand the records in the right way
but leave it to the researchers how to interpret them. So the access paradigm
means autonomous responsibility of the researchers for the contents they find
in the records, and a full range of instruments helping them to get to the
sources they need and to evaluate their relevance. Here lies the new challenge. It means to design a full range of new instruments and concepts, that
provide orientation and help to find the way to the material that can deliver
the information needed. Among them can be - besides the traditional finding
aids and repository guides in online versions - new forms of introductions
to the holdings of an archival institution, online-specimen as examples that
show how to understand records, and devices like internet-portals that link
distributed archival services together to a whole.



2.2. Access and the custodial paradigm

The access paradigm enlarges the traditional custodial paradigm that has got
some problems to explain its service to the present society. Custody without
access is not complete. It has no aim and its purposes are not clear. Finally it
is not controllable and it cannot be made accountable by society - at least by
the present one.
Custody is a main element of the traditional self description of the archival
profession. It means the secure storage and aims at physical objects, that are
kept out of risk or danger for their enduring existence. Custody as a concept
orientates the work towards the physical objects. Digital storage teaches the
lessons, that even if the physical objects are kept in good condition, the
recordings might not be understandable any more. So the custody of material
is just one among other means to keep the information potential untouched.
The debate on post-custodialism in the nineties was the first discussion,
that tried to react to the perception of an increasing incongruence between
the physical objects and the messages, that they might communicate and to
establish a more functional approach.
The concept of access is better prepared to the lacking of congruence
between the physical shape and the meaning of the archives. It focuses on
the interests in the information potentials and can secure their use even with
a different physical form. This approach can ask, how is the best way to open
the archives for public use and it can therefore choose flexible strategies of
description as well as of preservation. Custody, either in the archival repository or under archival responsibility in a different place, is just a question
of practical organization, but not a question of archival methodology or
2.3. Access and user orientation
The access paradigm has these effects because it places the user in the center
of the archival awareness. The use of the archives is the only reason for their
existence, access helps the users to work with archives and facilitate their
work. It indicates the openness of the holdings and as main services the easy
orientation that allow their use.
User orientation can be the basis for a clearly defined framework of criteria
for the different areas of archival achievements. It can identify the level of
intensity and completeness of descriptive information measured against the
need for instruments to give access to the users. Thus the criteria for the
definition of the quality of archival work are quite clear. Everything that helps
to get to the needed records is useful.



But access does not mean, that the description and presentation of archives
are user driven. They cannot try to replace the interpretation by the user
because only the researchers really know what is needed for their questions.
Access puts emphasis on an enabling approach. It opens information potentials in their context of creation, that guaranties them their plausibility. It does
not present data or other information as true representations of reality, which
would at the same time exclude the presentation of other information and thus
use the difference between true and false instead of the one between open and
The concept of access describes a professional strategy that is not
dependent on the personal and individual empathy of the archivist for
the contents or his understanding of the users questions. It is a strategy
that is neutral towards the content but passionate concerning openness and
availability of information potentials and thus strictly user oriented.

3. Access and archival methods

This concept of access reformulates the archival paradigm because it has
consequences for all archival methods, for description and arrangement as
well as for appraisal and preservation. It touches fundamental principles of
archival theory because it can give a consistent explication of archival materials and their processing needs. The effects on the methods and theory of
description, appraisal and preservation shall be described next.

3.1. Access and description

Access as an overall priority can identify the aims of description and explain
why it is done for which purpose and with which effects. From this statement methods can be derived which best guaranty the formulated aims. All
methods can be focused on one point and therefore they can be tested and
examined or changed, if necessary.
Description is a field where a large debate on standards took place since
the development of ISAD(G) and it was newly reinforced by the publication
of the EAD-DTD. The development of both standards started with the need
to exchange descriptive information across institutional or national boundaries and thus to enhance the cooperation of historical research. ISAD(G)
had in mind the union catalogues of libraries and tried to create something
similar to bibliographic standards for the integration of archival material into
large databases. EAD has another starting point. Long before the wide spread
access to the internet it adopted its future method by separating the representation of the descriptive information from its presentation for use. As a first



step in developing EAD the textual structure of finding aids was analyzed.
A standard for the form and structure of finding aids was formulated. Both
standards wanted to offer uniform presentations of descriptive information
and combined it implicitly with prescriptions for standardized descriptive
practices for archives.
There is a problem with both approaches. Standards want to achieve
products that look alike by regulating the way how to work. They prescribe
the right way. Standards however do not give indications in which situations
they work best. Being a standard means the claim for universal validity. So to
evaluate their usefulness and the validity for a special situation the purpose
for their implementation must be clear. That is why standards run the risk
of making people do something wrong but in the right way. It can help with
efficiency, but not with effectiveness. Processing standards concern the input,
while access as a paradigm is output oriented.
The orientation towards accessibility of the holdings enables the archivists
to choose the standard that fits best the problems occurred in a special situation and to adopt it to new, not yet anticipated situations. It can consider
different forms of material like official files, collections of loose paper,
photographs etc. It can respect different conditions like a newly increased
demand for a certain group of records. And it can allow to conceive strategies
according to different availability of personal or financial resources. If availability is the aim, than the different standards can be measured and chosen.
The standard that best helps to open the holdings and make available their
information potential is the best one. This choice needs a thorough understanding of the situation and of the material beforehand, k involves analysis,
which cannot be covered by a processing standard because every new situation is different from the other and needs the capability to ask the right
questions. Professional qualification enables archivists to see and understand
the differences according to criteria based on archival theory. For analyzing
the situations professional skills are needed, because they enable us to formulate the criteria to ask those questions, that open the way for an output oriented
Having in mind the aim of accessibility the questions that concern the way
how to describe the material are less methodological but more technical ones.
Before starting the actual work strategic decisions on the level of intensity,
the form of presentation and the possibility to use an internal structure for the
arrangement have important effect on the results of the work and on the need
for resources. The answers to these questions can indicate which standards
can be implemented and how they should be used.

A C C E S S - T H E R E F O R M U L A T I O N OF A N A R C H I V A L P A R A D I G M


3.1.1. Different levels of intensity

The first aspect concerns the depth of description. New user needs that follow
developments in society may have discovered new areas of investigation and
ask for certain collections that did not yet get special attention for archival
processing, because they are rather new or because this interest was not
anticipated. Than rapid accessibility is wanted and the definition of different
levels of progressively increasing intensity of description can help to offer
access first on a rather general level and refining the details later on. A strategy
to identify the summarized descriptions that can be representative for the
whole is needed. Summarizing is possible as a representation of the internal
coherence on different levels. It follows the internal structures, unveils the
context of creation and indicates the areas where the recordings emerged from
cooperate operations. The decisions on different levels of intensity require the
knowledge about the fonds. The internal structure has to be known in its main
elements. The analyses is not less challenging than a detailed description.
Only the actual work load for recording the descriptive entries can be reduced.
This approach integrates arrangement and description. The structures help
the researchers to identify and find the sources they need. The arrangement
of the fonds is of central importance. It does not only show the place of
descriptive unites but presents the contexts and gives information about the
potential content. Structured presentation uses the reciprocity of arrangement
and unit titles on every level of condensation. It must not be identical with he
physical order of the records in the stacks, but derived from the context of the
original purposes for their creation and use.

3.1.2. Combined meaning of structure and titles

The internal structures of a fonds are the result of the communication
networks created and used during the operations for which the records
were made. During the description they guide the decision on designing the
arrangement. They give the researchers relevant information for the orientation inside the holdings. The arrangement scheme can be used as a first
point of entry into the investigations of a fonds. The arrangement contains
a lot of information potential, which is not formulated verbally, but which
is presented visually to the users. Visual presentation is less precise but
conveys much more information than verbal descriptions and that is what
the arrangement scheme does.
Arrangement does not only just mean to use a structure like a classification scheme that groups similar phenomena together. It is more. The headers
explain themselves by their place inside the structure. All the headers on the
same level implicitly also mean the negation of the others, because they all
together represent the whole which is represented by a single item on the



next higher level. With this method get the headers a supplementary meaning
by negative delimitation supplementing the explicit wordings. Thus they are
defined more precisely than words could do. It is not a semantic hierarchy of
words like in a thesaurus or a controlled vocabulary. This approach to arrangement balances context and content. Such an arrangement scheme supports a
very rapid proceeding of search, because it advances by inference that can
exclude on each level a broad range of irrelevant items.
The internal structure, which emerged from the creation of the records
for internal coordination and cooperation during their active time, is reflected
by the arrangement scheme. It is different from the levels of composition
of physical units like series, folders and items, which is the basis of the
descriptive levels of ISAD(G). The levels of arrangement reflect levels of
differentiation among the complexes of competencies or operational functions and they are structured by the network of internal communications.
These complexes of cooperation are neither identical with organizational
units. They form a third structure besides the competencies and the physical
forms of materials. These three structures may be congruent, but in modern
agencies they are often not. The most important structure for accessing
records produced during the work is the network of communication, while
its differences from the two other must be obvious and may not be obscured
by the description.
The formulation of unit-titles is influenced by the place of the unit inside
the arrangement scheme. The titles themselves are part of the structure and
reflect it in their wordings. They indicate actions as concrete events inside the
differentiated competencies. They describe and allow access to the past activities and thus represent information potentials. If the headings of arrangement
groups indicate an overall responsibility, the single titles do not need to repeat
this indication but can well be formulated as sections inside the complex of

3.1.3. The form of the presentation

The use of the internal structure and the arrangement scheme as first point
of entry into a fonds needs forms for the presentation of finding aids, that
make it possible to navigate through the fonds. In traditional paper based
forms, finding aids have the appearance of books or brochures, not of library
catalogues. This form allows us to convey meanings that cannot be integrated
into card catalogues. The introduction of the finding aid gives information
about the growth and use of the fonds and explains how it came into the
archives. The following table of content has predominant importance for
finding aids. It shows the arrangement scheme and thus introduces the reader
to the structures of the fonds. The knowledge of the structure allows to browse



through the book purposefully, because the single descriptive information on

unites is arranged according to the scheme. The individual place of a single
descriptive unit together with its name attribute important meaning to the
The new techniques of internet presentation enhance the possibilities
of structured presentations. Now the arrangement scheme can be made
constantly visible in a navigation frame. Different levels of more or less
concentrated information can be accessed through links. And even supplementary information like the documentation on decisions taken during the
archival processing of the fonds can be added on different levels of the
arrangement scheme as it would have been more difficult with paper print
outs. This way the description helps the investigation. The interpretation
starts with browsing through the finding aids. Arrangement and description
for a structured presentation can allow access to the information potentials
on several levels of intensity even if the pieces of archival material are not
indicated individually.
3.2. Access and appraisal
Appraisal too is concerned by the paradigm shift towards access. Access as
a concept for appraisal allows a clear view on the neutrality of appraisal
decisions. If one user or one question is privileged by keeping a certain group
of records, others cannot be served and the representative function of the units
kept in the collection will vanish. Such decisions would restrict access in spite
of its good intentions.
The aim of appraisal is to keep the whole information potential. But that
does not mean to keep all records physically or as single units. The decision of
the archivist to dispose of certain records and to keep others bears information
for users, as it tells them, what was regarded as representative or not. The
central question is how to achieve the access to a most complete representation of the original information potential that will allow to construct history
out of a network of detectable stories.
As no administration gets its money for collecting information on the
outside world for later use in the archives, the informational description of
reality, as it can be read in letters, reports or statements in records, is always
guided by the interest of getting something done. Many letters in administrative paper work express applications, requests, demands or answers,
decisions and notifications. The authors of the letters on both sides know the
context and do not need to explain it. The writings on paper or in electronic
form are purposefully oriented towards activities and initiate or close decision
making. The information gathered for the decisions cannot be reused as such.
It cannot be transmitted outside the process that collected and used it without



loosing its meaning. Only the process as a whole together with its efforts to
inform itself can be interpreted.
Like description appraisal is based on an analyzes of the internal structures
of the fonds. The answers found during these investigations are needed for
both tasks. Description and especially the representation of the internal structure with the arrangement scheme indicate which records need to be kept and
help to identify them. The distraction of the greatest part of originally created
records is the best way to open the finally kept records for reference. That is
why appraisal is not a means to destruct information, but to open archives for
investigation by external observers and thus to make information accessible.

3.2.1. Secondary value: demonstrating the internal relations

The evidential value, as it was named by Theodore Schellenberg (Schellenberg, 1956), indicates the potential of records to demonstrate the working
methods and the relationships that were active while the records emerged
during the actual work. The distinction between primary value for the administrative cooperative operations and the secondary value for investigations can
lay open, why the records were created and why they were used. The concept
of secondary value can shed light on the primary purposes and analyze them.
Thus not only the operations of the records creators but also the creation and
handling of the records themselves can be understood. Their purposes become
clear and they can explain their structure and content. The question of the
reasons for writing down, what can be read in them, is not verbally answered,
but the answer can be found through the interpretation of the records and the
motivations of their creators. The operations represented in the records can
explain their purposes when they are reconstructed by the traces which they
left over.
Appraisal finds out which records are most representative and typical and
can be used as nodes of the structure. This structure than can be filled with
records, that represent special cases as contrast to the typical forms. Thus they
allow the reconstruction of the administrative activities and the understanding
of the records. Also records with specially interesting information gathered
during their creation can be added. All three motivations nevertheless should
be transparent for the users.
The approach using the difference of primary and secondary purposes
is the only way to open the administrative work and the emergence of the
records itself for investigations. Only this way the different forms of files,
different layouts of letters and the use of internal notes for different purposes
can be seen and understood as interesting phenomena. This opens a large
area of experiences of administrations especially useful for international
comparison. But besides this effect the insight into the use of records in



the producing agencies offers intense explanation of reasons and background

information that helps to understand the archives and to find arguments for
their interpretation.
3.2.2. Opening the actions for reference
Appraisal helps to open the records through the destruction of ballast. What
has been of high relevance for the administration might be tiresome for
the interpretation because it shows repetition and redundancy. During the
work each case had its own difficulties. It represented an individual problem
different from all others and was solved by the one and only suitable solution.
So for the primary value the decision making in such a specific case is the
most important goal. Every letter, note or sign, contributing to the finding
of the solution, is part of the originating process and therefore also of the
records created just for this case. The internal structures reflect the processes
even if the physical arrangement of the documents sometimes differs
from it.
But not all such processes that occurred in the agency are needed for
investigation because they repeat the operations and thus also their informational potentials in masses. Instead of telling something these redundant
repetitions obscure the insight into the structures and prevent from understanding them. The results of appraisal are visible operations and their
subjects in a representative concentration. They are ready for later reference and connectivity outside the originating processes. To understand the
operations during the process and to see why what happened and what the
reasons were, representative files are sufficient. Their value for investigations
is increased by the fact that they were regarded as representative by the
appraising archivist, especially if this decision than is made transparent by
documenting it in a supplementary information in the finding aid at that place
where it is needed.
3.2.3. No destruction of information - but access to new knowledge
Thus appraisal does not destruct information, as records only contain
information potentials and the information itself is created by the users
through their combination of observations and their inference of phenomena.
Appraisal leads to the destruction of records. Doing this it allows actions to
vanish, that used writing for their organization instead of oral communication
only by chance and that were kept because of their inherent stability as they
used paper as support. Other communications in oral form were not kept
and therefore they had vanished and do not need to be appraised. But all
communications, were they oral or written, had their effects on later activities.
They initiated or hindered other operations, they influenced the thinking of
other persons and their attitudes and with these effects they remained part



of the common memory, even if they did vanish as operations and were not
remembered as single communicative events.
The holdings of archives after appraisal consist of unique organizational
activities which were identified as characteristic for the administrative unit,
that produced them. They are represented by the writings, used for their
organization. Because activities as such cannot be stabilized, the writing
represent them by their initiating or approving effect. They show a combination of "before" with the intention of something to be done and "after" with a
confirmation of the action that allowed further operations to start. Such writings, often without explicit wordings, allow to us gather what the actual event
was. As these combination of timely different sides of events were referred to
during the following process, such traces of operations give them plausibility
and reliability as authentically represented. Out of these forms of writings,
which may well contain long texts and small notes or can even just consist
of a hook or a line in a certain color, the actual events can he reconstructed.
Actions and events cannot be read, but observed. That is what happens when
records are interpreted for investigations.
Appraisal opens the way to gaining new knowledge through analyzes of
the past. Purposeful action needs knowledge about the situation and about
the effects of former activities. Planning of the future needs knowledge of the
past. Prognosis is based on diagnosis. But the planned activities that create the
need for knowledge, are new all the time. They do not repeat itself, because if
they are done one time, the need for that action is fulfilled and a new problem
comes up. The content of the needed knowledge is dependant on the situation
and the concrete need cannot be anticipated. But observation of actions is one
of the most effective ways of gaining new and authentic knowledge. Than past
activities can be turned into experiences to learn from. Such observation can
be done with the stabilized operations, that used writing for their organization
and that are therefore reconstructable by their traces in the archival holdings.

3.3. Access and preservation

The custodial paradigm may lead to the assumption, that access and preservation are contrary goals. Access endangers the objects, because every
transportation, every touch of fingers, and every climatic change presents
risks for the integrity of the material. So it seems to be most desirable to stop
any consultation. But on the other hand, without access would preservation
not be possible. Preservation is an expensive activity and it can be made
accountable only if it allows the public to get the information wanted. So
intelligent strategies are needed, that prevent the information potentials from
any damage and open them at the same time for any use, that may be wanted.



3.3.1. Preservation for the future or for today?

The preservation of the original status serves two goals. The first and most
obvious one is to keep the material in good shape and conserve it over time
to transmit it to future generations. This aim is focused on the future and
wants to allow the descendants to dispose of a legacy of sources about the
present times. It concerns the difference of past and future. The other goal
is based on the switch-over from primary to secondary value and has to do
with the difference from closed and open. With crossing the boarder-line
between the time of creation and the time of inspection the actual status of the
material at this moment offers the most complete information potential about
its growth and purposes and about the effects it had on the contexts. The
transferal to the archives stops any further growth because it definitely stops
the use for internal communication. The switch-over from communication to
observation marks the limit beyond which observation can be neutral to the
aims and goals of the initial communications, because with the transfer of the
responsibility for the materials and after finishing the original communications, only the network of communications as a unit, the triggers and reactions
that constructed the processes as a whole can initiate further reactions. Preservation in this concept means the stabilization of the informational potential
at the moment, when the records ceased to grow. Any change occurred to the
material later-on is difficult to identify and it might disturb the interpretation.
When the files are used in the archives any change, that might occur, must be
distinguishable from those phenomena representing an event during the actual
use. The preservation of the status of transfer may be done by preserving the
original physical status, but it might also be achieved by a reproduction or a
conversion to microfilm, that perhaps conserves the original image even better
than its own aging support. The image allows the virtual reconstruction of the
original at the time, when the photo was taken. The representation cannot
change with time. Only the support of the image can get traces of aging. So
the reconstructable shape may even be more authentic than the original.
This aim of preservation is focused on the present times. It serves the
users of today by giving access and securing the authenticity of the archival
material for actual interpretation at the same time. Preservation in this sense
as a methodology of assuring authentic meanings is guided by archival principles. Also in this context of preservation the focus on access opens the
way to service orientation and to intelligent strategies. Preservation cannot
just consist of repairing damaged materials and letting them be used again
until the next reparation is necessary. Intelligent strategies are asked for, that
protect the original but do not restrain or even enhance the use.
Like appraisal and description preservation serves the accessibility of
archives and of their information potential. Lots of those potentials reside



in formal characteristics. But their number is endless. Any aspect of form

or appearance may be useful for the interpretation of the meanings. Any
phenomenon, which may perhaps not be realized today as a sign or a carrier
of information, can be useful for specific questions about reasons, intentions
and effects. That is why the concept of intrinsic value is useful for the choice
of preservation strategies.

3.3.2. Intrinsic value

Access as focus of preservation shows the need for criteria that help to
estimate the talkativity of formal, external and materialized traces. They
represent the intrinsic value and formulated as such they can guide the choice
of preservation measures in concrete cases. Measures taken for preservation
of archive material, the conservation of the originals or their conversion to
other supports, run the risk that external formal features of files and printed
works may be overlooked or falsely evaluated when their importance for the
interpretation is not known. The ordering of pages in files of loose sheets,
the bindings, the pencil notes of one person in the files, all these features
are clues which give evidence to those who can interpret them about the
context of activities and their creation. This insight is non-verbal and depends
solely on appearance. This makes it direct and authentic but also dependent
on the understanding of the person looking at it. Preservation strategies have
to respect their potential usefulness for interpretation and reflect on how to
keep them visible or reconstructable (Menne-Haritz and Br~bach, 1997).
Intrinsic value is not restricted to paper support. Preservation of electronic records too is concerned with the stabilization of traces emerged from
common activities and communications. As for paper the transfer of responsibility from the administration to the archives means that the records should
not be changeable any more. On paper every alteration is visible and traceable. In electronic form the records themselves do not show any trace of aging
or manipulation. Only attached software protocols could indicate logs if they
are permanently readable. The switch over from production to observation is
not dependant on the material of support. It is needed for any interpretation
and understanding by an external observer, that means by any researcher in
the archives. So electronic preservation means strategies to keep recordings
unchanged and to prepare for the reconstructability of the original contexts of
creation. For these aims combined approaches linking analogue and digital
storage as well as structuring methods based on tagging languages like XML
are thinkable. Encapsulation as well as later reconstruction are also methods
of stabilization and therefore useful for the purpose of reconstructability.
Description, appraisal and preservation get a clear orientation with the
concept of access. Their goals are better perceivable and the purpose of



archives is less questionable. Access give archives strong roots in the present
and avoids the difficulties to explain, why the present society should - besides
the cultural aspects of history - maintain institutions specialized on managing
the past for future needs. Access as an archival concept can also give new
directions for thinking and theory building in archival sciences. It offers new
explications for old principles like provenance and can also link archival
science into an interdisciplinary network of new scientific approaches for the
changing world of electronic communication.

4. Access and archival theory

The access paradigm has the capability of reformulating archival science in
such a consistent way that it can better offer connective interfaces to other
disciplines (Gilliland-Swetland, 2000). Especially social sciences play an
eminent role in the emerging scientific reflections on administrative work,
on knowledge management and the construction of communication. The
networking capacities of ICT have initiated a new relevance of those theories.
Computer sciences use models of social interaction to construct the new
networks of cooperation.
Archival science has always analyzed records, their creation, and the
traces left by their communicative use. Because records are closed and
inactive when they come into the archives, they allow us to get knowledge
about what happened before with them and when they were created. They
represent the operations in action more or less directly and intensively. They
are common actions and thus social activities. They lay open whole worlds
of social interactions, which can be observed without interviews or questionnaires. These traditional methods of social, empirical analyzes run the danger
of producing the results, that are more or less explicitly expected or wanted.
This effect is caused by the dilemma, that any observation of actual operations
and communications either becomes part of it or disturbs and changes it.
Every external observation of an operation before the end of these operations
is integrated and converted to an inside operation. Observation of actions
becomes action itself. It turns into participation in the process. If actors know
that they are observed, they take this fact into account and respect it when
planning further operations. Records instead were created without having to
think of a third person. Observed and investigated after the finishing of the
observed operations - which normally is unthinkable without records - they
convey all the information needed to understand how that happened.
Different structural forms and the different forms of physical compositions of the combined operations reflect more or less the internal structures
of writings and recordings. Nevertheless the insight into the operations



is a prerequisite for understanding the information collected during the

communication processes.
Archival sciences have developed methods for understanding operations
after they have taken place. Operations, that should be observed, first can
operate in an undisturbed environment. But they are still there when they are
finished. With its special techniques of analyzing and presentation of internal
structures archival sciences have prepared a body of methods useful for
process analyzes that try to understand them before they are changed through
inspection or participation. The differentiation between past actions and
present analyses (another way to distinguish between primary and secondary
values) is the basis for really understanding what happens and for developing
a basis for future actions. The diagnosis needs past in its status of unchangeability for the prognosis of what might happen in future. This neutrality
towards the observed events is the prerequisite for present operations, because
it conveys all the reasons and relations needed to understand them and to learn
from them.
4.1. Business process and provenance

Provenance as the core theoretical basis for archival sciences expresses the
orientation towards access. When it came up for use in the archives in the
end of the nineteenth century it was regarded as concept facilitating the
management of the new masses of records being transferred from increasingly differentiated agencies to the archives. It made life easier, not only for
the archivists but also for the researchers, because it was better adapted to
the inherent characteristics of archives. The practice showed the way and the
theory explained it with developing archival science. The practical guideline
implied to keep all records from one agency together without mixing them
with those from other agencies. Theory identified this approach as practical
as long as the organizational structures were rather stable and questioned the
reasons why this principle is so useful for archives.
The target of the principle of provenance is the understanding of the
emergence of records through common purposeful activities combined to
processes inside organizations. Therefore in modern terms provenance can
be understood as the business process, which was organized with the help
of the recordings. This clarification is needed because of the increasing
incongruities between organizational structure, forms of the paperwork and
the networks of communications (Cook, 1984). Business process analyzes
is an expanding approach of economic sciences. For archival purposes it
needs more analytical capacity and archival science can offer these analytical
methods to economies.



For the analyzes of business processes it is useful to start with a clear

distinction between production processes and decision making process as
types of social interaction. The production process begins after a decision
about a certain product is made, either as offer to the market or as order by a
client. This process is closed, because its result is known from the beginning.
The character and the sequence of the operations needed can be drawn from
the definition of the product. Such a production process can be conceived and
optimized from its end. It can be implemented for every new preparation of
the same product.
If the end is not describable in advance, but should be defined by the
process itself, than a decision making process with special characteristic
forms is needed. It cannot be modeled before it starts. It needs different
techniques for its construction, planning and control. Its product, the decision
is needed only once, because it changes an open situation into a selection
out of different possibilities. When the selection is done the open situation is
gone and will not reappear again. Decision making processes are different
from each other and cannot follow one model. Instead they need special
instruments for their internal construction.

Production process

Decision making process


Predefined closed results

Open end


Controlled by external influences

Operationally closed with

internal control


External model

Internal self-constructed history


Modeled on the wanted results

According to the open problem

Economic effects

Multi repetitions/efficiency

Well planned/effectiveness

Production processes work well without internal communication. They only

need to know how to behave for special steps. Such processes can be automated and run by machines. They are what the cybernetic Heinz von Foerster
called in the terms of Alain Turing the trivial machines that are defined
by their predictable output in contrast to non-trivial machines that behave
unpredictably. Non trivial machines use their own history for their internal
construction. They build up their own prognosis on the diagnosis of the own,
self produced past. Non-trivial machines operate through gaining knowledge as self produced answers to questions concerning the next operations
(Foerster, 1982). This technique of process construction is especially interesting for archivists. Processes that need their own stabilized history for the
construction of themselves and that keep the traces of past operations for this



purpose, will also offer insight into their own construction, when the process
itself is finished.
The understanding of decision making processes gives the possibility to
see the different motivations for the use of writing, be it in analogue form on
stable supports or be it in volatile digital formats, as opposed to the use of
oral exchange of messages or deliberation, and thus to identify why it was
4.2. Relevance for electronic records
Can electronic writings offer the functionality of analogue writing for the
construction of decision making processes?
Prerequisite for using electronic writing for the construction of decision
making processes is stability, because only stability of the original status
allows reconstruction of intentions and plans as well as of their achievements.
Only stable recordings of the difference between past and future can represent
time. Stability - before and after the actual operations - is the prerequisite
for self-preserving operations and any later reference to them. Stability is
not a physical characteristic but it means a function. It means a stabilized,
unchanged information potential. Electronic writings cannot be physically
stable. But if they can have the function of stability they can stabilize their
potential meanings. For example a certain function of stability is offered
by e-mail software. When the addressee of a message forwards it to other
persons, some software marks the initial text with signs in the beginning of
the lines and adds information about the first communication into the body
of the message. The new addressee sees without verbal explication, that the
text had been forwarded, from whom it originated, and when it was received.
Commentaries by the first addressee are to be identified by missing marks and
thus they are well distinguishable from the original text. With these effects
e-mail messages achieve to represent different time layers and their interrelations. They show a distinguishable difference between before and after.
That is the same effect like that of annotations on a paper document, that also
show different time layers integrated into the text, not stored in metadata, and
present the development of the informational potential of this unit. Thus email is one form of stabilizing time for the construction and representation
of processes built by communication events. Its broad acceptance shows how
useful this approach is.
For more complicated operations and decision making processes further
electronic instruments are needed that capture time and stabilize it in a
similar way. The transparency of electronically supported processes too needs
stability of triggers and reactions. Perhaps the combination of analogue and
digital forms for archival preservation may be useful. Somehow the switch-




over from primary to secondary value has to stop the flexibility or volatility
and to start the stability to guaranty authentic insight. And this may well
already be necessary during the continuing use of the records concerning
older parts of it that have lost other relevance than representing the past
history of the affaire as a sort of self-reference for further planning and thus
have already switched over to secondary purposes.

5. Results of the access paradigm

The access paradigm reinforces the theoretical challenges as well as the pragmatic implementation of archival methods and ideas. It can combine both
and assures the practical relevance of theory development. User surveys can
be used to evaluate the quality of the service and theoretical debates can open
the possibilities to learn from practical experiences in the light of fundamental
aims and principles. With this strong connection to practical experiences
theory development avoids to take off from the actual problems and to isolate
itself from other disciplines. Theory, that explains practical experiences and
helps to reengineer the practical work is helpful. Practice without theory is
blind. The access paradigm is the clue that brings together both in a way that
they produce new ideas and develop new methods of quality control.
The Respect du Fonds is the respect for the user, because with this theoretical basis archives offer the best service. Open and accessible archives define
their place in the society of today and assure the capability to combine past
and future to present actions. With this concept new aims can be perceived
and realized as services. That is first reconstructability as a method of
providing the possibility to create new knowledge and to learn from the
past. Thus it can be used as a complementary instrument of memory besides
storage. The second aspect is the possibility to create transparency in an
effective way, that allows to distinguish and to control in a more efficient
way insight and participation.
5.1. Reconstructablity: an alternative to the storage of memory

Reconstruction of past events is a broadly used technique to understand

a present situation, especially in historical research. History chooses by
itself what can be used as sources. If archives explicitly prepare sources for
research, the interesting question for historians is, why just these materials
and not others, why just this form is chosen. When they have reconstructed
the intentions of the archivist who created that fonds and when it is clear
what the effect of these intentions were, they can decide about the value of
the sources for their research.



Everything can get the quality of an historical source and it only depends
on the research questions, if it will be one or not. Historical research has elaborated the methods how to learn from past experiences, that are not actually
present in the common memory. It shows how questions can be formulated
and how phenomena can be regarded and used as sources. History as a
scientific discipline explains how sources can be identified and understood.
Sources cannot just be read to learn facts from them. For gaining new and
reliable knowledge the sources' right to veto is even more important than
what they tell in their wordings. This historical method of understanding
events by analyzing the traces left behind when everything is finished and
when the events did change something can integrate time in the technical
sense of distinguishing between before and after into the understanding of
the world. It uses the reconstruction of past events to explain phenomena of
today and to provide a common understanding that allows to decide about
how to plan future common actions. These methods can be used outside the
historical research too for gaining knowledge about the past whenever it is
needed as prerequisite for planning activities.
Access enhances the chance, that archives can be understood and used as
sources for any purpose. Reconstructability is a main prerequisite for the use
of records as sources and for understanding, what they were meant for. If they
convey openly the intentions for their creation and if the effects of operations
done with them are visible than the reasons of their messages are clear and
can be the base of new cognition.
Reconstructability as an aim of archival work respects the autonomy of
the researcher. It does not try to anticipate the research questions but lays
open what ever can be seen. As a theoretical concept reconstructability
turns the perspective around from input to output. And that is an important
effect. The attention focuses on the needs. It takes the actual problems seriously and offers help to the common efforts to find the solution. In contrast
the concept of archives as storage of information offers solutions without
knowing whether or when the need will occur. It is oriented towards the
behavior while the access paradigm is strictly oriented towards service.
5.2. Transparency: insight and arguments instead of believing
Reconstructability creates transparency. The operations and their intentions lay open in front of the observer. The past can be understood in an
authentic way. It cannot be influenced by former intentions concerning later
interpretation and understanding.
The degree of transparency depends on the form of communication used
for the coordination. Oral deliberations are opaque for external observations.
Only the participants know, what happened. Only they can know the internal



history of their interaction and decide what should be the next steps. An oral
discussion cannot exclude someone who is present and who can hear the
contributions. Persons present during the deliberations of a board meeting,
can be divided form the board physically by a barrier or only functionally by
a well defined task such as the one to take the minutes. They are no participants and their reactions are not regarded as contributions. Without such
distinctions every behavior of present persons, even silence, is integrated into
the process and influences it. Each effort to make such processes transparent
by the observation of thirds change or eventually stop them.
The volatility of oral utterances combine them to the appearance of their
authors who can thus influence the understanding by non verbal means. It
vanishes when it is happens and can provoke reactions only once. In contrast
to oral communication can writing be reused and it can be read by persons
external to the process. But the use of writing causes a bifurcation between
the two effects of verbal communications, that are the exchange of messages
on the one side and the organization of the common process with the help of
visual appearances on the other side. The stability of writing allows to repeat
the communication again and again in contrast to the single communication
operation caused by a vanishing oral contribution. It is separated from the
author, who thus cannot combine it with gestures and mimic explaining its
relation to preceding utterances. A written message repeats the need of interpretation both of the textual message and its form to understand the intended
message whenever it is read. Therefore it does not allow connecting operations following the communication. That is why it cannot be used to construct
a process of interrelated time-layers in contrast to the oral communication that
causes reactions and can handle interrelations. But written texts can be annotated and reworked together. Than however the text has not the function of a
message to each other but it is the subject of collaborative work. Transparency
is best achieved, when the common activities are open and reconstructable by
the traces left behind during their organization. The permission to read texts,
documents, reports and so on by thirds cannot really provide transparency if
the operations during which they were produced or used are not clear.
In contrast to understanding participation is interested in the definition and
achievement of certain common alms. Only afterwards can be analyzed why
the aims were reached or not. But the result of the activities must be there
before its reasons can be found. That is why participation hinders accountability, because transparency and participation are two opposite concepts.
Transparency can be granted only if participation is excluded and that means
that effective functional barriers between both are needed. The unalterable
past of actions to be observed is a secure means to exclude participation
effectively and thus to prepare it eventually for the next time.



5.3. Offers to other disciplines

The concepts of reconstructability and transparency offer methods and
insights to other disciplines and their problems which they are discussing
actually. Everyone who engages in a discussion process cannot expect to
come out of it unchanged. The same happens for archival science. It can learn
a lot from the newly expanding theories in other disciplines like second order
cybernetics, business process analyzes, distributed cognition etc. It will surely
change its appearance during this process. But this development is not threatening. Instead it reformulates the core competencies in a way, that they can
be better understood and that they present connectivity to other disciplines.
The increasing discussion on knowledge management as an answer to certain
insufficiencies of the former concept of information is a good example.
The term of knowledge management replaces meanwhile the term of
information treatment as description of new perspectives. What are the differences between information and knowledge? Why is the concept of knowledge
management interesting for archives? Knowledge management turns the
understanding of information around as does the access paradigm for archival
sciences. It focuses no longer on storage and presentation but on cognition
and learning. It concentrates on the needs instead of the offers. This turn
seems to be influenced by the development of the internet, where the question
is not so much how to get information into it, but how to get useful information out of it. This question led to interesting creations like portals adapted
to different needs. Their main achievement is the help with evaluating and
combining sources for knowledge.
Knowledge management first realizes that information is something that
can be gained. It gives the answer to questions, which had been there first
and arose through the need to act. Information is no longer conceived as
a storable unit but its character depends on its usefulness and it cannot be
repeated, because then it would be redundant. The concept of knowledge
management tries to define uses and to find ways how to capture the knowledge of an organization. This approach is related to the concepts of access and
it could profit from archival findings. Knowledge management is the management of the difference between knowing and not knowing. It consists of the
preparation of instruments and methods to gain knowledge in purposeful and
effective ways on the one side and of the preparation for openness of potential
sources for knowledge on the other. It prepares possible sources in a way, that
they can easily be identified and used. A third part finally are those techniques
and methods that bridge the gap between needs and sources and produce new
knowledge in an efficient and purposeful way. Archival methods are needed
especially for the opening of the traces bearing experiences of past actions as
knowledge potentials. But they can also offer analytical methods that explain



how to learn from the different sources. Archival methods show how to use
the past to gain new knowledge, not only in the form of explicit description
of facts, but also in the form of past experiences as they can be reconstructed
from traces left over by past events.
The concept of knowledge management is broader than the former concept
of information management. It enlarges its scope by introducing the aspect of
interpretation of sources. Knowledge is more than the management of information or written records. It needs special capacities of learning from every
sources available and thus also the capacity to identify potential sources. The
completeness of knowledge depends on the demand and not on the input of
sources and it can only be measured by the needs and not by the scope of
sources prepared in advance. So the responsibility for the quality and the
completeness of knowledge is attributed to the user and not to a provider.
But the provider has the responsibility for preparing potential sources like
publications or records for their availability. He is needed more than before
as an enabler of access instead of a deliverer of prefabricated information.
The new emphasis on knowledge means a stronger differentiation between
the two sides of user and enabler together with more labor division and special
competencies on both sides. These new tendencies enhance the relations to
social and administrative sciences as well as to economies, because actions
and operations as generators of experiences and knowledge potentials and as
generators of knowledge needs become more important. Knowledge builds
the bridge between the past from which it learns and future which it helps to
prepare for. The interaction inside organizations and between their members
become more important than writing and document production. The communications and common actions are oriented towards common problem solving
with the help of decision making processes. They build up social entities of
interoperation and use special instruments for the internal coordination and
control. Their functioning is a concern of social sciences while their efficiency
can be understood and optimized with economic categories.
The guiding aims of archival efforts that are reinforced by the access
paradigm concern the neutrality of archives towards their contents. It is the
basis for a passionate commitment to the openness of the holdings. It is just
that attitude that the famous quotation form Voltaire describes which says:
"I may disapprove what you say, but I will defend to the death your right
to say it." With theses developments archival science reinforces its characteristics as a scientific discipline within a really interdisciplinary context. Access
as an archival paradigm articulates the overall aim and the basis for further
development in the new interactive world.



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