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Inception of Archival Systems: Ancient civilizations (3000 BC – 476 AD)
As one of the oldest known professions, archival work can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Scribes in Mesopotamia, the early Egyptian recordkeepers, and the librarians in the library of Alexandria, all contributed to the creation and preservation of written records.
The Middle Ages: Monasteries and Charters (476 AD – 1450 AD)
In the Medieval era, the preservation and archiving of documents shifted to religious institutions, especially monastic communities. Monasteries preserved not only religious texts, but also charters that recorded secular affairs, legislation, and historical events.
Renaissance: Emergence of Public Archives (1450 AD – 1600 AD)
With the advent of humanist scholarship during the Renaissance, there was a noticeable push towards the preservation of a broader variety of records. This led to the establishment of the first public archives, such as the Venetian State Archives.
Proliferation of Paper (1600 AD – 1800 AD)
The proliferation of paper during this era marked a significant milestone for archival systems. Paper documentation increased dramatically, requiring more organized systems for archival and retrieval.
Introduction of Archival Principles: Manual for the Arrangement and Description of Archives (1898)
Dutch archivists Samuel Muller, Johan Feith, and Robert Fruin formulated systematic principles for archival arrangement and description in their Manual for the Arrangement and Description of Archives. This development influenced future archival practices globally.
The Birth of Modern Archival Theory: Principles of Provenance and Original Order (20th century)
Archivist Sir Hilary Jenkinson and historian T.R. Schellenberg brought about significant advancements in archival theory by establishing the principles of provenance and original order. These principles emphasize the importance of preserving the context and arrangement of records as originally created and maintained.
Advent of Digital Technology (Late 20th century – Present)
The advent of digital technology has brought a radical shift in archival systems. From digitization of physical records to the creation of born-digital records, technology has transformed and broadened the scope of archival preservation.
Electronic Records Management (Late 20th century – Present)
With the increasing prevalence of electronic documents, archival institutions have developed electronic records management programs. These programs ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of digital information.
Open-source Archival Software (21st century)
With the advent of technology, open-source archival software systems like Archivematica and AtoM have emerged. These systems allow institutions to process, manage, and provide online access to their digital and physical holdings.
Cloud Archiving (21st century)
Cloud-based archival systems are a recent development in the evolution of archival systems. These systems provide unlimited storage, high security, and accessibility from any location, revolutionizing the way institutions archive their data.