historical manuscripts tradition

n.Techniques of curating historical manuscripts and records based on principles of librarianship that emphasize items rather than collections.


Berner 1983, p. 1–2 This historical manuscripts tradition, in relation to both collecting and intellectual control, was dominant from the eighteenth century until about 1960. In the twentieth century before 1960 practices were added from the public archives field from time to time. By 1960 the nature of collecting itself had changed from a concentration on papers of remote vintage to an emphasis on those of recent origin. The latter had many characteristics of public archives, because of their comparable extent, structure, and depth of documentation. ¶ The historical manuscripts tradition is rooted in librarianship. Because manuscripts were generally brought under some form of library administration, it is understandable that library techniques would be applied to them. . . . Because of their rarity (unique handwritten items) and their separation from related papers, the collected materials were handled as discrete items. Berner 1983, p. 7 The fateful separation of the historical manuscripts tradition field from the public archives field began in 1910 at the AHA's Conference of Archivists, when the application of library principles was attacked as inapplicable to public archives. The differences that developed meant that the historical manuscripts tradition would remain linked to techniques of librarianship. Public archives, meanwhile, would develop along lines derived from European archival institutions where theory and practice had long been the object of scholarly discourse and refinement.