What Is an Archives?

Part of our continuing recognition of Kentucky Archives Month.

Whether you are researching your family tree, searching for inspiration for your latest historical fiction novel,1 verifying the royal succession,2 or looking for information about the One Ring,3 the place to look is an archives.

An archives is a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people.  These records include photographs, maps, letters, diaries, government records, and many more things. Many of the types of records in archives are rare and most are one-of-a-kind.  The collections in an archives are often donated by organizations or individuals over time, and often these records are valued family artifacts.  So, archivists have a responsibility to the historical record- and to past donors- to protect and preserve the records in their care.  For more information about what an archives is and about our archival collections, follow the links below:

Archivists are trained to carefully evaluate records and identify which should be retained and which should not, to organize the records so they can be retrieved, and to preserve the records through conservation.  Conservation includes appropriate storage, cleaning, and repair, as appropriate.  For more information about what archivists do, follow the links below:

And, don’t forget:Be Nice

“Of all our national assets, Archives are the most precious; they are the gift of one generation to another and the extent of our care of them marks the extent of our civilization.” ~Arthur G. Doughty, Dominion Archivist, 1904-1935

 “Everyone keeps asking you for pictures, and after a while you get tired of that. I always say, ‘they are in the archives.’”  ~Annie Leibovitz, photographer


1“Our archives are treasure troves – a testament to many lives lived and the complexity of the way we move forward. They contain clues to the real concerns of day-to-day life that bring the past alive.” ~Sara Sheridan, author of historical fiction

2“There is nothing more useful for instructing and teaching men, nothing more necessary for clearing up and illustrating obscure matters, nothing more necessary for conserving patrimonies and thrones, all things public and private, than a well constituted store of volumes and documents and records–as much better than navy yards, as much more efficacious than munitions factories, as it is finer to win by reason rather than by violence, by right than by wrong.” ~Baldassare Bonifacio, “Des Archivis,” 1632


Post written by WKU Archives Assistant April McCauley

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