n. a set of archival or (more commonly) manuscript materials materials assembled by a person, organization, or repository from a variety of sources; an artificial collection (sometimes pl., collections) a thematic aggregation of sets of otherwise unrelated archival materials (also pl., collections) the holdings of a repository, taken as a whole the process and practice of collecting archival materials


The word collection is one of the many fraught terms in archives. The term bears the weight of many, and sometimes contradictory, meanings, but it remains a heavily used term, and there is a good reason it is so: because, everything in an archives, in the end, is collected by archivists—or foisted upon it by a higher power. Everyone uses the term, but many hate it. To the purist, the term collection appears to suggest the archivist assembles archives from scraps rather than appraises the records the archives acquires. To the manuscripts librarian, the term may suggest every collection is an artificial collection—since, indeed, many are.