A memory institution is an organization maintaining a repository of public knowledge, a generic term used about institutions such as libraries, archives, museums, sites and monuments records (SMR), clearinghouses, providers of digital libraries and data aggregation services which serve as memories for given societies or mankind. Increasingly such institutions are considered as a part of a unified documentation/information science perspective.
Lorcan Dempsey may have introduced the term into popular use in library and information science, although others, such as Joan Schwarz, used it earlier. It also appeared in a 1972 report to the Council on Library Resources.
Helena Robinson (2012) criticized the term when she wrote, "[r]ather than revealing the essential affiliation between museums, libraries and archives, their sweeping classification as 'memory institutions' in the public sector and the academy oversimplifies the concept of memory, and marginalises domain-specific approaches to the cataloguing, description, interpretation and deployment of collections that lead museums, libraries and archives to engage with history, meaning and memory in significantly different ways."
- Dempsey, Lorcan (1999). "Scientific, Industrial, and Cultural Heritage: A Shared Approach". Ariadne. 5 (22).
- Schwarz, Joan M. (1995). ""We make our tools and our tools make us": Lessons from Photographs for the Practice, Politics, and Poetics of Diplomatics". Archivaria. The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists. 40: 40–74. Retrieved 2017-08-22.
- Libraries and Information Technology: A National System Challenge (Report). National Academy of Sciences. 1972. p. 19. Retrieved 2017-08-22.
- Robinson, Helena (2012). "Remembering Things Differently: Museums, Libraries and Archives as Memory Institutions and the Implications for Convergence". Museum Management and Curatorship. 27 (4): 413–429. Retrieved 2017-08-24.