6.12 Types of Libraries: Archives

Archives differ from libraries in mission and operation. Whereas libraries have a selective collection development policy, archives attempt to be a comprehensive collection of a business, organization or social movement. An archive is responsible for keeping a permanent record of the history, transactions, and operations of whatever it is that is being archived and thus, the materials in an archive usually do not circulate.

There are governmental archives responsible for keeping the permanent record of that organization or branch. The National Archives in Washington, D.C., for example, maintains treaties, maps, photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings, correspondence files, and other documentation of the operations of the administrative branch of the federal government.

Corporations and businesses house archives that serve both a public relations function and provide historically accurate information about the company and clients. For instance, the Coca-Cola archive includes such materials as original Coke bottles, print and broadcast ads, drugstore signs, decal-covered serving trays, and other Coke-related paraphernalia. The manager of the archive is called upon regularly by the legal department to produce documentation to protect the Coca-Cola trademark.

At the start of your information strategy process, you may determine that it is crucial for you to gather information about the history or operation of the organization or business you are reporting on or for whom you are preparing a strategic communications message. That organization’s archive is the place to start.