We all create records. We need them to carry out our daily activities. Some of these records are particularly important, and we ensure that we keep them for as long as necessary. Some we decide to keep permanently, and these become our archives.

Organisations of all sorts create records in the same way; they keep most only for as long as necessary, but they keep certain ones permanently. These become the archives of the organisation.

Sometimes, people and organisations are less organised, and records may not be kept deliberately but may survive by accident.  They may be found later by other people, who might decide that some or all of the records are worth keeping because of their historical importance.

All of these archives from the past, and the archives now being created, are the raw material of history. They tell us what people and organisations did, how and sometimes why they did it, and sometimes what they thought. By using archives we can connect directly to past generations.

Next: Archives – a definition