Throughout history we have seen that with the development of social groups, and society as a whole, there comes a desire to keep a record of activities.
This record can take an endless number of forms; from an oral re-telling passed down through the generations, a written document created by those governing a society, letters and diaries kept by individual members of that society, to the more recent audio-visual recordings and email correspondence with which we are familiar.
Records are created by any number of different groups; from families, estates, and individuals; charities, societies, businesses and industry; to churches, schools, council and governments.
Archives come in to being when such records are kept by a society and its members for the evidence they provide, and because they are deemed to have historical value. They represent a society’s ‘collective memory’.
Unlike published library materials, which have many duplicates, archives are unique and can usually only be found in one place. We sometimes refer to archives as ‘primary sources’ because they make up the raw material used by researchers who are looking to investigate various subjects. They give us a unique and original perspective on the past, and without them we would have no real sense of history.