The Character of Personal Archives: Reflections on the Value of Records of Individuals

  • Catherine Hobbs


This article examines the character of personal archives and suggests that recent debates concerning the acquisition and appraisal of records have centred on administrative or government records models, and that similar debates have not occurred concerning personal records. By adopting the organization-based strategies of current archival theory to personal archives, archivists will reflect on individuals at the crux of interactions and as performing various roles within society. In the personal fonds, however, both the unique documentary patterns of individuals and the expressions of an individual's character and interior struggles reflect how individuals' archives differ from organizational records. By seeking to reflect the character and interiority of individuals within archives, archivists will better represent the creator not just as a social agent, but as the creative individual forging his or her own life through time.

Author Biography

Catherine Hobbs
Catherine Hobbs is Literary Manuscript Archivist at the National Library of Canada, where she acquires the fonds of Canadian poets, novelists, playwrights, and short-fiction writers, as well as other individuals and organizations involved in Canadian literature who work in English. She has been at the National Library since 1999. Prior to this she pursued both an M.A. in Literary Theory and Criticism (thesis on theories of parody and postmodern feminist theories) and a Masters of Library and Information Science, both at the University of Western Ontario. Catherine continues to be interested in creative ways in which theory can inform practice, both with respect to Canadian literature and Canadian archives. This year, her interest in the archives of individuals brought her to propose and to create, along with a number of her colleagues, the Special Interest Section on Personal Archives (SISPA) within the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA). Her article is based on her presentation at the 2001 ACA conference on the panel "Evidence and Anecdote: A Panel on Personal Papers." Recently, she co-curated the exhibition Phyllis Webb: Elemental on the life and work of the poet Phyllis Webb, which was shown at the National Library in the early months of 2002.
How to Cite
Hobbs, Catherine. 2001. “The Character of Personal Archives: Reflections on the Value of Records of Individuals”. Archivaria 52 (November), 126-35.
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