Archival Theory and the Dutch Manual

  • Eric Ketelaar


The Manual by Muller, Feith, and Fruin (1898) owes much to Theodoor van Riemsdijk (General State Archivist of The Netherlands, 1887-1912), who believed that the basis of archival theory was careful observation and analysis of phenomena and organizations, and the use of diplomatics to understand the records-creating process prior to turning to methodology proper. Muller and Fruin, however, favoured a normative approach to archival methodology, which was codified in the Manual. This codification and standardization--part of the process of professionalization of Dutch archivists-- blocked the development of archival theory for a long time. Modern functional archival science seeks, as Van Riemsdijk already understood, a functional interpretation of the context surrounding the creation of documents in order to understand the integrity of the fonds and the functions of the archives.


Le manuel de Muller, Feith et Fruin (1898) est redevable à Theodore Van Riemsdijk, Archiviste général d'État de la Hollande entre 1887 et 1912, des fondements de la théorie archivistique, par l'observation et l'analyse minutieuse des phénomènes d'organisation en utilisant son expertise en diplomatique afin de comprendre le processus de création des documents avant de se tourner vers la méthodologie archivistique. Cependant, Muller et Fruin favorisèrent une approche normative de la méthodologie archivistique, laquelle était codifiée dans le manuel. Cette codification et cette standardisation, étapes du processus de professionnalisation des archivistes hollandais ont bloqué le développement de la théorie archivistique pour un long moment. La science archivistique moderne tente, comme l'avait déjà compris Van Riemsdijk, une interprétation fonctionnelle du contexte entourant la création des documents dans le but de comprendre l'intégrité du fonds et les fonctions des archives.

Author Biography

Eric Ketelaar
Eric Ketelaar has been Algemeen Rijksarchivaris (General State Archivist) of The Netherlands since 1989. Previously, he was Assistant Lecturer in legal history at Leyden University, Secretary of the Archives Council, Director of the Dutch State School of Archivists, Deputy National Archivist, and State Archivist for the province of Groningen. He has served the Society of Dutch Archivists as Vice President, President, and Chairman of the Steering Committee on Automation. For his work as editor of the thirteen-volume series of guides to all repositories in The Netherlands (1979-1987), he was awarded the Society of Dutch Archivists' Hendrik van Wijn medal. He has served the International Council of Archives as Secretary for Standardization, and as Secretary of the International Conference of the Round Table on Archives. Since 1992, he has been a part-time Professor in Archival Science at Leyden University.
How to Cite
Ketelaar, Eric. 1996. “Archival Theory and the Dutch Manual”. Archivaria 41 (April), 31-40.