n.the person or organization holding and responsible for the care of archival and other cultural materialsGarrison 1939, 97We have definitions of archives, and we have definitions of private manuscripts, but the custodians of each group have evolved a ritual, sanctified through time and usage, endowed by the elders or trustees of institutions where the custodial priest presides with the sacramental service, known briefly as “the laying on of hands.”Church 1943, 149These cases may be expanded and multiplied to such a degree that I do not believe it possible for anyone to contend logically that an archival agency must remain solely the custodian of official records.Moss 1985, 56Archivists can recognize a clearly significant record, and most can agree on the triviality of a clearly insignificant record. In between these extremes is a great deal of unsatisfactory and inconclusive debate. The survival or destruction of any given record may be uncertain, depending on whim or the amount of storage space a given custodian can afford at any given time.Duranti 2009, 41Ensuring authenticity is the key to the identity of the trusted recordkeeper or custodian, or, more generally, of the records professionals responsible for assessing and guaranteeing over time the trustworthiness of our documentary heritage.Bromley, Christman, and Page 2015, 41During the tenure of governor Robert McDonnell (2010–2014), Larry Roberts championed the Library of Virginia as a responsible custodian of gubernatorial records.Yeo 2015, 179In recent years, as readers of Archivaria will know, custodial history has become a subject of increasing interest to archivists and users of archives. It determines what materials have survived, whether they are available for consultation, and where they are to be found; in all these issues are of primary concern. Archival scholarship also acknowledges that the impact of custodial history is not simply a matter of access; the evolving histories of archives over time and space determine the shape of archives and transform the way we encounter them.
Custodians may not own title to the materials they hold. In some instances, a custodian may hold legal custody but not physical custody.