GPAS Table of Contents

Archival Education: Mission and Goals

Administration, Faculty and Infrastructure


A graduate program in archival studies should provide students with a solid foundation in archival science. The curriculum should focus on archival theory, methodology, and practice and should be augmented by instruction in economics, history, information studies, law, management, and technology as they relate to archival work. Delivery of courses in these complementary areas should be informed by an understanding of the nature of archives and the ways in which the methods and perspectives of these fields contribute to professional archival practice.

As stated above, the body of knowledge that a student should master as part of a graduate archival education comprises both core archival knowledge and complementary knowledge.

  • Core archival knowledge provides the theoretical and practical basis necessary to work as a professional archivist.
  • Complementary knowledge introduces students to other disciplines, knowledge of which will deepen their understanding of archival work and support its accomplishment. Complementary knowledge also allows students to specialize in specific aspects of archival work or to function in truly cross-disciplinary settings.

During the course of a graduate program, eighteen (18) semester credit hours should be in areas defined as core archival knowledge. Based on the demands of the graduate program's institution and the interests of the student, the remaining credits may be in complementary knowledge areas. Research should be integrated throughout the curriculum, and an important element of any program should be an original research project resulting in a scholarly paper or thesis. The program should also include practical experience, such as a practicum or internship.

Core Archival Knowledge


The identity of a profession is founded on an exclusive body of knowledge and on a professional culture that arises from a common history, a united purpose, a shared vocabulary, and collective values, norms, and standards. Archival core knowledge is the heart of an archival studies program. It should occupy a dominant position in the curriculum and should be taught by full-time archival educators, professional archivists, or other individuals with a depth of archival knowledge relevant to the topic. Core archival knowledge embraces three separate but interrelated facets of archival studies: Knowledge of Archival Material and Archival Functions (theory and methodology associated with specific areas of archival work); Knowledge of the Profession (history of the profession and evolution of archival practice); and Contextual Knowledge (the contexts within which records are created, managed, and kept). Because archival knowledge and professional culture transcend geographical and national boundaries, each component should incorporate an international and multicultural perspective.


Knowledge of Archival Material and Functions

Archival education should teach the fundamental concepts concerning the nature of archival material in all forms and archival functions (archival theory), the techniques for performing archival functions (archival methodology), and the implementation of theory and method in real situations (archival practice). Instruction should cover the history of archival theory and methods and their articulation in the professional literature (archival scholarship). The scope of archival education should encompass all archival functions and should address both current best practices and related management issues.

Knowledge of the Profession

Archival education should provide students with an understanding of the ways in which the profession has developed and how its specific practices have evolved. It should teach students about the nature of archival institutions, units and programs, the values and ethics that archivists bring to their work, and the perspectives that archivists contribute to the information professions.


Contextual Knowledge

All graduates of archival studies programs should have a basic understanding of the contexts within which records are created and kept and of management and technology theory and practice as they apply to archival work. This knowledge should be integrated throughout the core curriculum wherever applicable so as to foster a sound working knowledge that can be applied to daily activities. Some of these areas of knowledge may also be studied more fully as disciplines in their own right; therefore, they are also listed under Complementary Knowledge below.


Complementary Knowledge


Archivists must rely on knowledge, methods, and perspectives derived from disciplines beyond their own. The interdisciplinary nature of archival studies arises from the complexity of archival materials, the contexts of their creation, the multiplicity of their potential uses, and the many roles that graduates of archival studies programs fill. Graduates should be knowledgeable about significant theories, methods, and practices of some or all the following fields.