Respect des fonds
Respect des fonds, or le respect pour les fonds, is a principle in archival theory that proposes to group collections of archival records according to their fonds – that is to say, according to the administration, organization, individual, or entity by which they were created or from which they were received. This principle has largely guided how archival materials are arranged and described in late-19th- and 20th-century archives. The theory posits that ordering groups of records by creatorship provides authenticity and context by evidencing the relationships between records and better manifesting the environment of their creation.
A closely related concept is that of archival integrity, which holds that records emanating from the same source should be kept together.
Respect des fonds originated from the circular titled "Instructions pour la mise en ordre et le classement des archives departementales" (commonly known as "Circular No. 14") issued by the French Ministry of the Interior on April 24, 1841 and authored by Natalis de Wailly, head of the Administrative Section of the Archives nationales. The circular instructed archivists "to assemble the different documents by fonds, that is to say, to form a collection of all the documents which originate from a body, an organization, a family, or an individual, and to arrange the different fonds according to a certain order." This method of arrangement was a break from previous ways of arranging archival materials which were largely based on library classifications or idiosyncratic facets such as date, place, subject, kings, and pre- or post-revolutionary origin.
The principle of respect des fonds gained widespread acceptance across Europe, informing the development of the related German concept, Provenienzprinzip. The principle was also promoted in the widely influential Manual for the Arrangement and Description of Archives (also known as The Dutch Manual) in 1898, further codified by its ratification at the First International Congress of Archivists and Librarians meeting in Brussels in 1910, and featured prominently in the work of eminent British archivist Sir Hilary Jenkinson, who described it as "[t]he most important of all principles of Archive Management".
Respect des fonds is often seen as being composed of the twin principles of provenance and original order. The principle of provenance dictates that archival records are grouped by the organization or individual that created them, whereas the principle of original order dictates that the records within those groupings be maintained in the order fashioned by their creator. Provenance and original order are foundational concepts in archival processing. These dual principles are also described as the "external" and "internal" order, respectively, of records ("external" meaning how records are grouped within an archive; "internal" meaning how individual records are arranged within those groups). The explanation by the National Archives of the United States of their Records Group concept demonstrates the influence and legacy of the principle of respect des fonds.
While respect des fonds is generally considered a core concept of the archival enterprise, some critics have noted both the historical contingency of its creation and also the impracticality of its execution. For instance, critics have shown that respect des fonds may have arisen from the need to find a simplistic method for novice archivists to manage a growing volume of archival materials. As well, political influences and contestations of historical methods of arranging and describing materials may have influenced the theory's creation. Other critics have argued that grouping records by fonds does not adequately capture the dynamic, changing nature of contemporary bureaucratic institutions and that maintaining original order prioritizes inscrutable or meaningless arrangement systems of records creators over the usability and accessibility of records by researchers and other users of an archive.
Between the 1930s and 1950s, the principles of respect des fonds and archival integrity were repeatedly debated in the context of the work of the Records Preservation Section of the British Records Association (a rescue service for archival material), in regard to the ethical implications of splitting related groups of documents between different archive repositories.
- Duchein, Michael (Summer 1993). "Theoretical Principles and Practical Problems of Respect des fonds in Archival Science". Archivaria. 16.
- Bartlett, Nancy (1992). "The Origins of the Modern Archival Principle of Provenance". Bibliographical Foundations of French Historical Studies: 106–114.
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- Internet Archive. "International Congress of Archivists and Librarians: Brussels, 1910". Retrieved 1 January 2016.
- Jenkinson, Hilary (1937). A Manual of Archive Administration (2nd ed.). London: P. Lund, Humphries & Co. p. 101.
- Eastwood, Terry (1992). The Archival Fonds: From Theory to Practice. Ottawa: Bureau of Canadian Archivists, Planning Committee on Descriptive Standards. p. 4. ISBN 0969079761.Eastwood, Terry (Fall 2000). "Putting the Parts of the Whole Together: Systematic Arrangement of Archives". Archivaria. 50: 98–99. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
- NARA. "The Record Group Concept". Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- Moore, Lara (2008). Restoring Order: The Ecole Des Chartes and the Organization of Archives and Libraries in France, 1820-1870. Duluth, Minnesota: Litwin Books. ISBN 0977861791.
- Fenyo, Mario (April 1966). "The Records Group Concept: A Critique". The American Archivist. 29 (2): 229–239.
- Boles, Frank (1982). "Disrespecting Original Order". The American Archivist. 45 (1): 26–32.
- Baker, Penelope (2018). "Back-bone or burden?: the role of the RPS in the BRA". Archives. 53 (136): 27–44 (32–33).