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Private Interests or National Heritage?

 - Corporate Archives and the Production of History in a Global Perspective

An international workshop organized jointly by the Unit for Economic History at the University of Gothenburg and the Regional State Archives in Gothenburg.

Date and venue

24-25 November 2016

Regional State Archives in Gothenburg, Arkivgatan 9A. See map.

Keynote speakers

Elizabeth Shepherd, PhD, professor and director of research at Archives and Records management studies, UCL. She is author of Archives and Archivists in 20th Century England (Ashgate, 2009) and serves on the editorial board of the journals Archival Science: Journal of the Society of Archivists and the Record Management Journal.

Charles Harvey, PhD, Professor of Business History and Management at Newcastle University Business School. In a distinguished career he has published numerous highly regarded articles on a wide range of topics in business history, management and organisation studies. He was a long time editor of the journal Business History.

Presentation of workshop

Corporate archives are preserved for a variety of reasons. Likewise they are preserved in a multitude of different places and under a multitude of different conditions. These variations might reflect differences in how corporate records are viewed and valued, to whom they are seen to belong, and in the uses to which it is believed they can be put. Sometimes companies retain records out of habit or inertia. Others have a more active interest in preserving their history and perhaps in preparing for writing that history. The archive can be used for branding and marketing purposes, for image creation by the companies, for change management, or for other strategic purposes. Some corporate archives are collected and organized to the highest standards of the archive profession, while others are merely a result of requirements to keep specific records. Other companies, whether purposefully or otherwise, rarely retain archives or regularly destroy their records and documents. The fate of an archive when a company dies is another important question, as is the fate of the archives of state-owned enterprises experiencing privatization. Another question concerns the archives of multinational corporations, who often cross multiple borders.

At the same time, it is not only corporations themselves who sometimes collect, store, and make accessible corporate archives – a range of private, quasi-public, and public organizations and institutions might become involved. As in many fields of social life, history has seen a turn to a transnational or global perspective, asking questions about the patterns and variations across and between rather than simply within countries. However, the very largest unit at which archives are organized tends to be the nation. As a result, the differences – and similarities – in the ways in which corporate archivization takes place across nations has tended to go unexamined. Simply stated, we know that corporate archives are preserved in many different venues, by many different bodies, and for many different reasons and this become even more apparent when we adopt a global perspective.

Our sense is that choices around the institutions and practices of the archive have real implications for the kinds of history generated. Are we correct in this? Our aim in organizing this conference on corporate archives in global perspective is not simply to gain an overview of patterns and differences between countries but also to enquire as to what consequences these patterns and variations have for the production, dissemination, and reception of history. The international perspective will, it is intended, throw these issues into sharper relief.


For questions regarding the workshop, pleae contact Susanna Fellman, susanna.fellman@econhist.gu.se

Sidansvarig: Kajsa Folmeus Strandberg|Sidan uppdaterades: 2016-10-27

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