Archives in the stacks: documentary editions in collections

Date23 August 2019
Publication Date23 August 2019
AuthorRobert B. Riter
SubjectLibrary & information science,Collection building & management
Archives in the stacks: documentary editions
in collections
Robert B. Riter
School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
Purpose This paper aims to investigate the role of documentary editions in supporting the development of historical collections in libraries, their
function as evidential and informational objects and considerations for their evaluation in collection development. Framed as objects possessing
bibliographic and archival characteristics, attention is given to the evaluative challenges these objects presen t during collection development.
Design/methodology/approach This paper provides an archival and bibliographic analysis of documentary editions through examining and
discussing their archival and bibliographic elements. Consideration is given to how these elements are expressed as information and evidence, how
they operate as scholarly and archive-like objects and how they acquire value as collected objects. This approach claries the informational and
evidential characteristics of these works, offering a framework for their evaluation in libraries.
Findings Documentary editions possess archival and bibliographic characteristics, requiring that evaluators cri tique the scholarly value and
archival integrity of their content. This has implications for the curation of archival objects in library collections, where library and archival expertise
can support a more nuanced assessment of these works.
Originality/value The blurred documentary character of these works has been identied by scholars (Cox, 1991). This paper presents evaluative
considerations. Here, these characteristics are claried, and an approach for evaluating these works is offered.
Keywords Collection development, Archival appraisal, Archival sources, Documentary editions, Evaluation of sources, Scholarly sources
Paper type General review
Archival documentation exists in varied documentary forms
and is collected and made accessible through multiple
documentary practices (Oliverand Duff, 2012;Cappon, 1976,
pp. 432-433; Stevens, 1950, pp. 172-173; Pierazzo, 2014,
pp. 2-4; Giunta, 1986;Conway,2015, p. 56). Primary sources,
in their original artifactual bodies, are collected and appraised
by archivists, and form archival collections that commonly
reside in archives, special collections and related collecting
institutions. However, neither is the evaluation and collection
of archival material limited to the purview of archivists nor is
the containment of these materials limited to traditional
archival terrains (Trant,2009;Bastian et al., 2018,p.6;Wythe,
2007, pp. 52-53; Robinson, 2013). Librarians, engaged in
collection development activities removed from traditional
archival appraisal practices, engage with archival materials in
the form of documentary editions, developing collections of
published representations, in print, microlm and digital
editions (Clement et al., 2013, pp. 113-117; Giunta, 1986;
Cox, 1991, pp. 108-110). These works supportwider to access
to original source materials beyond the boundaries of their
originating artifacts, gather contextual related but dispersed
collections and, in cases where a source cannot be safely used
because of preservation concerns, support surrogate access.
Librarians, in formingcollections from these works, are allies in
supporting accessto archival information and are professionally
presented with the task of evaluating archival and manuscript
content for acquisition.
These objects possess archival and bibliographic
characteristics, containingoriginal source material, augmented
by scholarly comment. Documentary editions vary greatly in
their form, content and presentation.In character, they express
archival and bibliographic characteristics. Both require
evaluation when forming hybrid collections from these sources
(Schulz, 1988;Kline and Perdue, 2008, pp. 35-45; Salt et al.,
2012;Cox, 2015, pp. 227-229; Zboray, 1990, pp. 34-35).
Librarians carry out archival and bibliographic evaluations
when assessingthese works. This necessitates an understanding
of bibliographic evaluation methods and of archival appraisal
(Bastian et al.,2018,pp. 51-63).
These derivativearchival collections are a critical element
of library collections (Simon, 1974). Published editions of
original sources support a form of archival access outside of
traditional archival environments. Because documentary editions
are composed of archival information and editorial
contextualization, they present archival and bibliographic
concerns. This paper offers a discussion of the place of
documentary editions within library collections, addressing issues
related to how they are used to form surrogate archival
collections, the challenges that they present to the librarians
charged with their evaluation for acquisition and, lastly, how
documentary editions operate within the larger information
infrastructure of academic libraries (Rundell, 1970, pp 160-161;
Emerald Insight at:
Collection and Curation
39/2 (2020) 4146
© Emerald Publishing Limited [ISSN 2514-9326]
[DOI 10.1108/CC-04-2019-0009]
Received 2 April 2019
Revised 21 June 2019
Accepted 24 June 2019

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