adj. (also post-custodial)relating to situations where records creators continue to maintain archival records with archivists providing management oversight even as they may also hold custody of other recordsHam 1981a, 207We see that the current revolution in information processing is inexorably changing our world and our work, pushing us into a new period in archival history, a period I call the post-custodial era.Baker 1997, 247In the post-custodial archives model, records remain in the physical care of the offices that created them. The archives regulates, monitors, and assists records creators in preserving and providing access to records, referring users to appropriate records in creating offices.Tough 2004, 23A post-custodial approach is particularly well suited to some kinds of records. Large databases are a case in point.Houston 2015, 120To these two elements we would eventually add a third meta-strategy: make transfer to the archives an access to electronic records as easy as possible for the creators and archivists alike. In many cases, this third approach led to eliminating the need for transfers at all, allowing us to create a hybrid post-custodial electronic archives environment.Edmunson-Morton 2015a, 178How do you work with creators to save their history in a community archiving and post-custodial environment, encouraging them to save and share valuable records of their work?Caswell, Cifor, and Ramirez 2016, 58SAADA is run entirely on a postcustodial model so that, rather than accept physical custody of records, SAADA borrows records from individuals, families, organizations, and academic and government repositories; digitizes them; describes them in a culturally appropriate manner; links them to related materials in the archives; and makes them freely accessible online to anyone in the world with an Internet connection.Shein and Lapworth 2016, 13The authors of this paper emphasize that postcustodial theory endorses non-custody in that it recognizes some circumstances in which it is appropriate for archives to support and steward materials not held in their physical custody, however, it in no way mandates non-custody in all cases nor suggests that non-custody is preferable to taking custody of originals as a general practice.Zanish-Belcher 2019, 14–15We need to collaborate with communities to maintain their own identities and postcustodial archives even as we reconceptualize and reconfigure how we do our work for our own acquisitions.
The term post-custodial was first conceived by F. Gerald Ham, in hyphenated form, in 1981. Ham devised the term in response to the growing demands of preserving electronic records, which necessitated a shift from the custodial tradition, where records are maintained by archives, to a alternative model where records are retained by their creator with archives providing oversight and support functions. Although postcustodial theory asserts that archivists can no longer hold custody of all records that might come under their care, the theory does not suggest that custody will totally disappear either.