Master of Archival Studies – Thesis Abstract

Walter Meyer zu Erpen, Study of the Archival Record and its Context: Meaning and Historical Understanding (UBC, 1985, 245 pp.)

The claim of archivists to be a scholarly profession is dependent upon their ability to methodically study and understand the meaning of the records in their care. Without such contextual information about the record as the name of its creating agency, the reason for its creation, and the authority by which it was created, archivists and researchers are in a poor position to assess the value and validity of its informational content. Without knowledge of the relationship of the record to other record series, they are likely to overlook additional supporting and/or contradictory documentation and thereby miss a part of the truth they seek.

This thesis is directly concerned with the means by which archival sources might be assessed to determine the value of the historical evidence they contain. It proposes a conceptual framework by which study of the original, primary, and secondary meanings of the archival record might be approached. Examples are drawn from close examination of the records of the Corporation of the City of Nanaimo surviving from the period 1875-1904 (case study). While acknowledging that extensive study of the significance of documentation might be impossible for archivists in their daily work, this thesis concludes that closer attention must be paid to sources documenting the contextual environment of the record. Such sources are essential to the furtherance of understanding which is the information profession’s ultimate goal.

Master of Archival Studies – Nanaimo Case Study Abstract

Walter Meyer zu Erpen, Towards an Understanding of the Municipal Archives of Nineteenth-Century British Columbia: A Case Study of the Archives of the Corporation of the City of Nanaimo, 1875-1904 (1985, 396 pp.)

This case study of municipal archives in the historical context of late nineteenth-century British Columbia is based upon close examination of the administration of the Corporation of the City of Nanaimo, 1875-1904. Although oriented towards the municipal researcher and organized so as to facilitate access to its informational content, it provides a prototype for study of municipal archives generally.

The research findings documented in this study represent the groundwork upon which my thesis for the UBC Master of Archival Studies Programme was based. Entitled “Study of the Archival Records and Its Context: Meaning and Historical Understanding,” that thesis is now available online.