Our Collections Vary Widely
Archivists treat unpublished and non-book materials as collections, based on who or what entity created or collected the materials. This practice is based on the principle of “provenance,” which holds that the context in which the records were created is important to understanding their historical significance.
Collections might consist of the records of an organization, the personal papers of an individual, correspondence between family members, or a collector's systematic accumulation of documents on a specific topic.
Furthermore, collections can vary widely in size and format. The collection shown in the top photograph to the right consists of only five letters. The bottom photograph, however, shows an assortment of items pulled together for a researcher from one very large collection: books, record boxes containing papers, and flat storage boxes containing maps.