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The “value” of business archives: assessing the academic importance of corporate archival collections

Hull, A. and Scott, P. (2020) The “value” of business archives: assessing the academic importance of corporate archival collections. Management & Organizational History. ISSN 1744-9367

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/17449359.2020.1769676

Abstract/Summary

Corporate archives represent the primary source material for business and management historians. Given that many of the most extensive and important business archives are held and managed by the corporations that generated them, maintaining corporate “buy-in” to preserving records and making archives available to researchers is vital to our discipline. However, corporate archives have to justify their existence and are under increasing pressure to demonstrate the value of their function (and, by implication, their records). Meanwhile, corporate archivists often find it particularly difficult to assess, and demonstrate, the value of their collections for academics and other external stakeholders. This article discusses an initiative to provide academic evaluations of the archival resources of companies that were considering increasing the accessibility of their records for external users. The original idea was a response to a request from Marks and Spencer plc for an academic evaluation of their archives, the success of which led to similar evaluations for BT plc and Boots plc. We outline the criteria by which these firms’ archives were assessed, together with how the evaluations informed subsequent decisions regarding the future development of their archives, assisted the firms in gaining external accreditations for their heritage resources, and supported initiatives to boost access, either physically and/or online. We also briefly consider one further consequence of the increased investment in archival resources following these initiatives – the wider interest in, and use of, the archives within the companies concerned - to support a range of business functions and draw on the strengths of their heritage and corporate culture.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:90727
Publisher:Taylor & Francis

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