This classic of archival literature focuses on both the practice and theory of archival work, providing a historical framework for contemporary archival studies.
The essays in the original 1975 volume were collected by Margaret Cross Norton's colleague Thornton W. Mitchell. Bringing together selected writings from 1930 through 1956, Mitchell's extensive editing unified Norton's original ideas and rendered her discrete essays into a single volume that addresses all manner of archival questions. Though Norton wrote largely based on her experience in the Illinois State Archives, her writing is broad and focuses on issues such as the scope, function, purpose, organization, and resources of archives. Practical matters, such as preservation, disaster prevention, and reproduction of records are also considered.
Norton was an archival pioneer, who challenged the prevailing view of archives as resources primarily useful to historians and scholars and made an early distinction between the archivist and the librarian. Her writings put forth the fundamental view that an archivist is first and foremost an administrator, rather than historian. This distinction has spurred discussion by generations of scholars and her writings have served as a strong introduction to archival practice.
The 2003 edition includes Randall Jimerson's article from Archival Issues, "Margaret C. Norton Reconsidered," which provides the reader with a well-reasoned and thought-provoking basis for the study of Norton's works. As Jimerson notes, Margaret Norton presented a more complex and nuanced theory of archives than either her advocates or her detractors have recognized. Norton's writings will inspire archival scholarship for years to come.
"Margaret Norton well deserves our praise. Her essays are as valuable today as they were when they were written, and they are fitting testimony to the foresight and achievement of this remarkable woman.
--TIMOTHY WALCH, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1977)
"Undoubtedly, thousands of archivists since 1930 have been influenced by her insight into the concepts, principles, and techniques of archival operations.
--DONALD R. LENNON, North Carolina Historical Review (1978)