Written By: Mary Dudman, Soutron Global Training Services Manager, MLS


What is an Archive? Do I have one and I just don’t know it?


Do you ever wonder what to do with that collection of “things” sitting around? Have you ever needed to locate or review this collection and discovered that you can’t find anything? It may be that you have a collection that you can archive and you don’t even know it.

We often think of an archive as just a bunch of disorganized boxes with dusty old papers that are stored in some back closet, room, basement, or drawer. We consult them on occasion and, after much digging around, we mutter “If they only were more accessible, they could be useful.”

In truth, the archival concept is actually something much broader than just a bunch of boxes of stuff.


What is an archive?


According to Wikipedia, an archive is “an accumulation of historical records or the physical place they are located… Archives can consist of records or items which have been selected for preservation on the grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value”. Paraphrasing from Wikipedia, archives may be found in:

Academic Institutions – These institutions have a wide variety of uses for archives. For instance they may use them for historical collections of institutional data or items including papers, furniture, banners, trophies, physical images, books, special publications, digital images and audio files, and so much more.

Businesses – These entities can use archives to preserve historical documents, and memorabilia, or physical, or digital examples of materials pertinent to the company.

Government – These institutions have a number of different archival organizations already. For instance, The National Archives and Records Administration, the Library of Congress, and even the Smithsonian are archival in nature. Yet, there are plenty of other state and local collections which may be perfect for archiving. These include genealogical collections, collections of published records, museum collections of all types and sizes, and an assortment of other types of specialized collections of materials.

Church – Church archives may contain collections of historical materials of all types. These can include clothing, ceremonial pieces, unique materials such as sermons, texts and more.

Films – The film industry has many different collections to preserve and/or restore to assure the integrity and availability of materials. These important items include the history of the film genre, costumes, footage (physical or digital), film notes and photography and more.

Non-profit – These organizations may have papers, reports, ephemera, medical equipment of a current or historical nature, information, brochures, informational pamphlets, medical samples for historical preservation purposes, or one of the many other materials that might be of value to catalog. Materials preserved and archived by non-profit agencies may well be unique collections of materials which are unavailable in any other venue or resource. The preservation of these materials is essential to the retention of the history and development of these organizations.

Collections held by private individuals – These items may include photographs, papers, published materials, art, or other types of collectible items, including digital and physical materials.


Archival Possibilities


The possibilities surrounding the types of archival collections which may exist are endless. Without some sort of organizational or archival management tool, these collections may remain hidden. They become unavailable for research, consultation, or discovery. The collection may even disappear in time unless specific efforts are taken to maintain the information.

Products, like Soutron Global’s Digital Archive, can provide you with the tools you need to organize, preserve, and make any type of archival collection available, whether it is to the public or for your private use. These solutions can help you to organize your collections regardless of whether the collection is printed material (papers, books, documents), images (physical or digital), and items (physical items, museum pieces, or other materials of historical or categorical importance).


Archives are no longer just that dusty old box of papers or books. Organizing and preserving your special collections using an Archival Management solution can bring your collections into the light of day. Whether you are showcasing your collections or organizing them for retrieval and preservation, being able to use your collections to their full potential is the key.