Document and archive in museums
The museum preserves the collections on display or in storage, but also a large number of documentary resources and archives. The publications in this section will help you to process this mass of information, sometimes abundant.
What are the archives?
The Heritage Code (Book II, Article L211-1) defines archives as “all documents, including data, regardless of their date, place of retention, form and medium, produced or received by any natural or legal person and by any public or private service or body in the exercise of their activity”. The word archives covers a wide range of realities.
Public archives/ private archives
Depending on the museum’s membership, the status of archives produced in the course of its activities is different. A museum belonging to the State or to another legal person governed by public law produces public archives, while a museum belonging to a legal person governed by private law and not for profit produces private archives. To these statutes «public archives» or «private archives» are attached different protections and management rules that are defined by book II of the Heritage Code.
The rules that apply to public archives aim to protect the rights of citizens and institutions but also to constitute a memory for the documentation of research.
Public archives are thus subject to binding rules concerning their preservation or destruction, their communication to third persons or their movement outside the national territory (national treasury). Finally, public records may not be sold or disposed of or improperly held without a time limit. Where appropriate, they may be the subject of a claim.
As part of the study and development of its collections, a museum may also be required to acquire private archives. Mastering these two distinctions is therefore essential for the proper management of these documents, whether they are private or public.
Archives / documentation
The study of collections is an important activity of museums. The distinction between archives and documentation is not always easy. However, it is important to distinguish between the two, as archives have status and management defined by statutory instruments.
The documentation consists of a collection of information of various kinds voluntarily gathered on a given topic in order to constitute a knowledge base. Where the documentation includes archival sources, the information contained in those documents must be communicated in accordance with the rules for disclosure.
The archives of museums, a heritage to be valued
The archives produced today by museums are essential to the proper management of collections and institutions. They are also tomorrow’s resources for writing the history of museums. Beyond their legal value, they are therefore a heritage to be organized, preserved and enhanced in accordance with their specificities in order to preserve the quality and reliability of sources (respect for the holdings and their integrity, including description according to archival standards).
This section therefore offers you various guides and practical sheets to deepen all these issues common to the archives of museums.