About Archives

How are Archives different from Museums and Libraries?

From the Charlotte County Historical  Center: 

Distinguishing Characteristics of Archives, Museums and Libraries

In an archives facility, historical materials are properly organized, stored, conserved and preserved permanently for future generations.  Materials include property records, court records, tax records, vital records, local history, genealogy and family papers, special collections and manuscripts, plans and maps, photographs, micrographics and electronic records. In addition, a public archives facility also provides public access, so historical materials will be scanned and  the public will be provided computer access to these digitized materials.

An archives center is different from a museum or a library by its nature and use. Some distinguishing characteristics are:

Archives = a place in which public records or historical documents are preserved.

  • Collections include original unpublished records, which are unique
  • Management revolves around preserving the collection
  • Specialized storage, multiple media, privacy and control policies, public access
  • Use is for open research, mostly uneditorialized
  • A public archives includes both preservation of and access to public records

Museum = an institution devoted to procurement, care, study and display of objects of lasting interest or value

  • Collections include artifacts and three-dimensional objects, which are somewhat unique or have a unique story associated with them
  • Management revolves around the individual artifact and its story
  • Climatized storage, public access through exhibits
  • Use is for exhibits, highly editorialized

Library = a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials are kept for use but not for sale

  • Collections include published materials, which are not unique and can be replaced
  • Management generally revolves around the individual item
  • Stored for public use, lending policies
  • Use is for open research, uneditorialized