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Abstract

As Frank Burke noted in 1981, evidence-based practice rather than theory tends to dominate professional literature about archives. The papers presented at archival conferences and published in journals often concern themselves with the quotidian functions of archives: processing, description, access, preservation, reference, education, and (in the decades since Burke wrote) digitization. This situation is hardly surprisingly given the fundamentally practical – indeed pragmatic – thrust of archival work. The field is often referred to as a science, not a theory, and abstract concepts neither offer concrete solutions to the immediate questions of daily practice nor provide new techniques for managing collections. Focusing on the practical, however, has its own limitations, and the restrictions of a practice-based literature and profession led Burke to compare archivists to a "large corps of parish priests when no one has bothered to devise a theology under whose standard they can act."

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