Archives are crucial to our external memory. We wish to remember, be remembered and not forget. We keep records and diaries, produce and sign documents, fill out forms and tax returns as well as email, post and tweet. We also make use of the archive of others: employers, housing associations, insurance companies, but also deceased family members and companies that have gone out of business. We make and make use of archives at work, at home and online. Archives are part of our everyday life and actively shape our collective memory. They consist of documents used to record and keep track of our thoughts, emotions and activities. We make collections as individuals, families, businesses, organizations and governmental agencies. We do so in order to record next of kin, keep track of our self-development, make business appointments, and to stay in touch with friends. We also do so to establish what is within our right, what is ours, and who holds the responsibility for actions.
In formal organizations the creation, maintenance, indexing and accessibility of archives, now and for future generations, are in the hands of professionals: records managers and archivists. Their job is to properly store and quickly retrieve archived materials to be used (perhaps centuries from now) in evidentiary settings. Researchers should be able to access and interpret the archives. Archivists also determine which documents should be kept, and which discarded, and thus shape the historical record.
Archival Studies are the foundation for record-keeping and archiving. It provides theoretical and methodological instruments for the study and everyday practice of developing archival systems as well as interpreting archives from various cultures as well as periods in history. Archival studies are not considered an applied science only. Rather, the field makes significant contributions to memory studies, source criticism as well as cultural heritage studies.