Evidence Studies 1

Bradley Hall C/D

Monday July 9, 2012

3:30-5:00 PM

Presenters: Erik Nordberg, Donald Force, Robert Riter

Erik Nordberg

Taking Care of Business: The Origins and Early History of Baker Library at the Harvard Business School.

Archival records are increasingly important evidence of American business and industrial history. As American industry has experienced decline, many buildings and sites associated with business, manufacturing, mining, and heavy industry have been altered, abandoned, or removed. It is unclear whether a comprehensive or coherent amount of historical material is being retained for future use by historians and other researchers.

This presentation will chart the founding and early development of Baker Library at the Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Mass. Established in 1908 to serve the nation‟s first-ever graduate school of business and economics. With access to significant faculty and alumni, Baker Library quickly developed wide-ranging print and manuscript collections documenting business administration and economics. Of particular novelty at the school was the development of the Harvard Business School “case method,” in which student undertake analyses of real-world business problems. The construction of such cases required access to a variety of business information, data which was collected and preserved in Baker Library‟s collections.

Construction of a standalone building in the new Business School campus in 1927 provided additional catalyst to Baker Library‟s expanding collections. In addition, the library developed a close and lasting relationship with the Business Historical Society whose mission was to “locate and preserve original business resources, promote the study of business, and publish research in business history.” Baker Library served as repository for the Society‟s collections and fully inherited the collections in 1953.

A review of Baker‟s early history also allows opportunities to compare and contrast other significant American business archives. The Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington Delaware, for instance, was founded in 1953 by Pierre S. du Pont, president of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours chemical company and chairman of General Motors. Formed initially as a library for du Pont‟s family papers and books, it merged with a du Pont industrial museum at the site of the company‟s former powder works in 1961 and became an active collector of business manuscripts. Alternatively, the collections of Archives Center within the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution, reflect museum origins and a curator‟s hands in its early development. Established initially as the  Museum of History and Technology in 1955 in Washington, D.C., many of its important industrial manuscripts were acquired while gathering objects and artifacts for interpretive exhibits opened in a new museum building in 1964.

Although the mission, funding, and archival collecting activities of repositories for business records change over time, an examination of their establishment and early work highlights important differences in each institutional context which continue to affect their selection of manuscript material for permanent preservation. In the case of the Baker Library, support of graduate education, faculty research, and alumni interactions guided its acquisition activities quite differently from industrial museums such as Hagley and Smithsonian.  This research not only reveals aspects of archival practice at this specific institution but can inform appraisal and selection theory and future collecting in the topical area of business and industrial manuscripts.

Donald Force

Litigation is a risk that all organizations face. In the event that an organization is sued and the parties go to trial, the organization must be able to use its records to support its case or refute the opponent’s position. In common law countries (U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, etc.) a record is considered hearsay if submitted as evidence for the truth of its contents, and is therefore inadmissible unless it satisfies an exception to the hearsay rule. One of the first exceptions to this rule that emerged in the late 17th century and continues to this day is the “business records exception to hearsay.” In order to establish whether a record satisfies this exception, the courts apply a set of criteria aimed to assess its reliability. The concept of reliability is one of archival science’s theoretical pillars and is defined as “the trustworthiness of a record as a statement of fact, as to content” (Duranti, 2009, p. 52). A reliable record is one that is authored by the person competent for issuing such record, in the usual and ordinary course of business and for the purposes of such business, at a time close to the fact in question, and according to an established and controlled routine. Despite its historical roots and importance to law and archival science, the concept of reliability has not been examined by conducting empirical research.

This presentation will present findings from author’s dissertation that examines the criteria Canadian courts use to assess the reliability of business records as evidence. The author reviewed over 100 legal rulings from courts in British Columbia and Ontario dating from the 1970s to the present. The study accumulated contextual data about the rulings, including the number of business records at issue, types of records at issue, and which records the courts accepted or rejected as evidence. Using content analysis, the rulings were analyzed to understand why the courts excluded certain business records. The research explores how an organization’s use of recordkeeping resources and tools, such as recordkeeping standards, may support the conditions for admissibility set forth by the Canadian courts. The study aims to establish the relationship between archival science and the legal profession by shedding much needed light on the measures organizations need to take to protect themselves against certain legal risks and to ensure that their records, if relevant to a case, will be admitted as evidence in a court of law.

Robert Riter

Roscoe R. Hill’s Archimon: A Discussion of Archival Concepts and Terms

In the context of history of description, Roscoe R. Hill is an important figure, both for his work, and also in functioning as a useful example in discussing the characteristics and nature of our archival language. It was Dr. Hill’s suggestion that the term archimon be used in place of the term series.  In his view, this was a “more expressive” term for describing this unit of archival material. Margaret Cross Norton, writing in 1939, noted that “this new word has not yet come into common use by archivists,” nor would it become prominent in contemporary archival usage.

This paper offers a story of two terms, one which has lived on prominently in our archival language, and one which has not. What was the nature of Dr. Hill’s concern with language?  Why did he feel that the term archimon was a better fit for describing the concept of the archival unit?  For what reasons did the term series win out?  Through examining these questions, the archival thought of Roscoe R. Hill can be introduced and explored, as well as the nature of these two archival terms.

In addition, this specific case is used as a point for addressing more overarching questions. Scholars in archival studies have demonstrated that archival practices, objects, and collections, can be examined at the conceptual level. However, though we can discuss archives conceptually, by necessity, we talk and write about archival concepts using very specific terms.  Archival language clothes our practices, our tools, and our thoughts. We decide to select, use, and perpetuate particular usages in lieu of others. The ways in which we talk about archives and archival practices matter, for our profession, and also for our readers and researchers.

In this paper I offer a historical study of a particular case, a discussion of terminology, as a beginning point for thinking about, and considering, the nature of our archival language and its effects.

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