Gambar halaman

convenient that their legal custody should pass with them. In this way the archivist is enabled to authenticate all documents deposited with him, and responsibility is centred in a single administration rather than divided among the departments and offices.

In what body then shall the control be vested? Preferably in a board or commission rather than in a single person.54 The board should be composed of representatives of each of the executive departments, as well as of the judicial and legislative branches, to which should be joined persons of eminence in the historical and legal professions. This board of record commissioners, as it might be called, in addition to having the legal custody of the records deposited within the depot, and making regulations concerning them, should be empowered to investigate the condition of the records of any office, in Washington or elsewhere, under the control of the federal government and to make recommendations respecting their preparation, preservation, and use.

At the head of the archive depot, and acting under the board of record commissioners, would be the archivist or keeper of the records. Under him would be the entire personnel of the depot from the principal assistants down to those employed in the menial positions. At first the personnel would probably be composed largely of clerks transferred from other offices-especially, of course, the file clerks and others most familiar with the records. New appointments however should be based upon the results of competitive examinations. The requirements and emoluments of positions in the archive service should be such as to attract persons of special education and training and the service should offer a career comparable, if not superior, to that offered by library work. We can hardly hope for a national École des Chartes and indeed the American archivist has but small need for that knowledge of palaeography, diplomatics, and chronology, which is indispensable in Europe. But he must have a thorough knowledge of American history, of the history of federal administration, and of administrative law, and should be able to read French and German with a certain degree of facility. Some of the

Senate Bill 6728, 59 Cong., 2 sess., introduced by Mr. Lodge on December 5, 1906, was designed to create a "board of record commissioners" composed of certain executive, judicial, and legislative officers, which was to have the "sole legal custody" of all records of the government, wherever located, "in which the latest date of record is upward of 80 years", as well as of such records of more recent date as might be designated by their present custodians. The provision seems to the writer to be defective in failing to include representatives of all the executive departments or of the legal and historical professions in the board, and in imposing a chronological limitation. A chronological limit is at best an artificial one and it is quite likely that certain offices might very properly desire to retain the custody of records more than eighty years old.

most eminent of European scholars are found in the archive services of their respective countries, and it would be well for us if at the outset we could divest ourselves of the idea that a person who must be "provided for " is thereby qualified for a position in the archives.

The question what material shall be placed in the archive depot is one that will require careful consideration. First of all however it would be well clearly to establish the distinction between the public archives on the one hand, and private archives and historical manuscripts of non-archival character on the other. The place for the latter is so evidently in the Division of Manuscripts of the Library of Congress that it would appear unnecessary to emphasize the principle were it not for the tendency in America to confuse the two classes of material, a confusion that has resulted in several state archives in the gathering together of public and private archives and historical manuscripts without much distinction between the various groups. The collection of private archives and of historical manuscripts by a public archivist is justifiable and even commendable when that is the only means of assuring their preservation, but this is not the case in Washington and the national archive depot should be reserved for the public archives alone.

Which of these then shall be transferred to the national archives and which retained in the offices? It should be made clear that no department or office is to be compelled to transfer any part of its records, but, if the experience of other countries and of some of our own states may be relied upon, all will sooner or later find it to their advantage to do so. In every case the determining factor will be, first, the extent to which the records are used in the transaction of current business, and second, the character of the records themselves. Many offices seldom if ever have occasion to refer to records that date back more than five or ten years and such offices would probably transfer all but the most recent of their files. Other offices, while relying most upon their recent records, still have occasion frequently to refer to the more ancient ones and here it would be necessary to decide whether the use of the latter is sufficient to justify their retention-always bearing in mind, of course, that the new system will enable documents to be produced more quickly than at present and that the retention of records makes necessary more space and a larger clerical force than would be required if the records were transferred. Finally there are offices, notably in the State Department, which make such constant use of certain classes of records that their transfer might actually hinder rather than facilitate the transaction of business. Such records should of course remain where they are.

The character of the records themselves is also a factor in deter

mining the disposition to be made of them. This is especially true of such as are considered confidential. While it may be assumed that records of this class will be as jealously guarded in the national archives as by their present custodians it may yet be more expedient, in certain cases, for them to remain where they are.

It is perhaps worth while to illustrate what has just been said. In the Department of State three classes of archives are in almost constant use and are furthermore of such a character that it might readily be conceded that they should not pass out of the custody of the department. These are the treaties, and the diplomatic and consular correspondence. But there are other groups of material of great historical value seldom referred to by the department, and containing little, except of recent date, that even the most zealous official could regard as confidential. These are the series of miscellaneous and domestic letters and papers, the laws, the Indian treaties, the territorial papers, and a great mass of miscellaneous material (some of which indeed is not archival at all and should be transferred to the Library of Congress). The papers of international claims commissions, while loosely regarded as confidential, might also be included among the transferable records.

Among the Treasury archives the "Secretary's files" and the records of the auditor's offices, to within a decade or so, could properly be transferred, while on the other hand the records of the secret service division and of the commissioner of internal revenue would doubtless be considered so confidential as to require their retention. In the Navy Department the records of the navy commissioners, a board long since defunct, would naturally be transferred, as well as all other records relating to the construction of ships no longer in existence. The log-books, except possibly those of most recent date, and the correspondence of naval officers anterior to the last quarter of a century would also find their proper place in the national archives. On the other hand records relating to vessels still in commission and, in general, to the national defense would undoubtedly be retained in the department. It is probable that in many classes of the naval archives the line between transferable and non-transferable records would be drawn at the year 1898. In the War Department it would appear as though most of the records prior to the close of the Civil War, or even to a later date, could be transferred with great profit to the department. This would cause the function of furnishing information to the Pension Bureau to devolve upon the archive establishment, but such a function seems more properly to

belong to record clerks than to officers of the army, and it would undoubtedly be performed at considerably less expense to the nation. than at present.

Many offices have inherited or otherwise become the custodians of the records of offices which no longer exist. Thus the commissioner of internal revenue has the archives of the old office of the commissioner of the revenue, the Supreme Court has the records of the continental Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture, the Register of the Treasury has the loan office records, and another office in the Treasury Department has the papers of the Southern Claims Commission. Such material, as at present located, is only an incumbrance and its transfer to the archives would be a matter of course.

The cases that have been cited serve to illustrate the way in which the principles laid down would work out.55 In general it would be found that the records retained in the offices would be mostly those of the last quarter-century, while the records of any office that has undergone a change of organization or of function would, for the period prior to the change, be transferred, as would also the records of offices, boards, or commissions that are no longer in existence, together with the records of the performance of any function that has now ceased to be exercised. Further transfers would of course be made as the records accumulate. These should be effected at intervals of from one to five years, and should be made with as much regularity as possible in order that the archivist may be prepared to receive them.

Problems of cleaning, repairing, and filing the archives as they are received from the various offices are too technical to consider in detail in the present connection. One rule may, however, be laid down that should be regarded as invariable, namely that all papers must be filed flat. This involves the labor of flattening most of the unbound papers, for the offices have generally made use of file boxes that have necessitated the folding of documents.56 Whether papers shall be bound, placed in boxes, or filed in folders, is a question about which there is still much difference of opinion. Certain classes of

A few illustrations drawn from English experience may also be given. The Foreign Office has transferred to the Public Record Office its diplomatic correspondence to 1869 as well as the archives of many of the embassies. The Colonial Office has transferred its papers to 1882; the Home Office to 1870; the Treasury retains the records of the last twenty-eight years, and makes regular annual transfers. The War Office records have been transferred to about 1868, those of the Admiralty to varying dates, but the most important to about 1860.

Flat filing has been employed in certain of the newer offices, such as those of the Forest Service, and in certain other offices the old files have been flattened, but the greater part of the unbound records are still folded.

papers may properly be bound, but the preference of most archivists. at the present time seems to be for a system of loose filing in folders or portfolios. This has the advantage of flexibility and is much less expensive than any other system.

At this point may perhaps be considered the destruction of socalled "useless papers", for it would be a sad waste of time and money to classify and file documents that were destined to be destroyed. The proper method of procedure would be for each office to indicate, whenever it transfers any body of records, which of those records have no further value for administrative purposes or will cease to have such value after a certain length of time. These indicated records should then be examined under the direction of the archivist or board of record commissioners for the purpose of determining whether they have any conceivable value for historical or other uses not administrative: When at last their complete lack of utility has been demonstrated, they should be disposed of, either immediately or upon the expiration of the term set by the office from which they came. In disposing of them, however, one precaution should be observed which is overlooked in the law of February 16, 1889: their immediate destruction, assuming that they are sold for manufacturing purposes, should be insisted upon and assured, in order to prevent any improper use of them after they pass from the control of the government.

With the useless papers weeded out and the remainder ready for their final filing, the problem of classification demands attention. It is possible only to lay down the principle that should be adhered to in the classification of all archives-the respect des fonds. In accordance with this principle records should be so grouped that they at once make clear the processes by which they have come into existence. Archives are the product and record of the performance of its functions by an organic body, and they should faithfully reflect the workings of that organism. No decimal system of classification, no refined methods of library science, no purely chronological or purely alphabetical arrangement can be successfully applied to the classification of archives. The sad work that Camus and Daunou made of the Archives Nationales in attempting to apply a logical system of classification should be a sufficient warning. The administrative entity must be the starting point and the unit, and the classifier must have a thorough knowledge of the history and functions of the office whose records he is arranging; he must know what relation the office has borne to other offices, and the relation of each function to every other function. It may be said that the original filing of the records should be in accordance with the sort of classi

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »