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What is in the Archive: Informational Value & Mr. Frog

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 8th, 2013

The West Virginia and Regional History Center strives to acquire, preserve, and provide access to items of enduring value that pertain to the history of West Virginia and the central Appalachian region.  Enduring value is a broad term, which the Society of American Archivists’ glossary defines as “The continuing usefulness or significance of records, based on the administrative, legal, fiscal, evidential, or historical information they contain, justifying their ongoing preservation.”

There are many qualities contributing to enduring value which archivists assess when acquiring materials.  One of these qualities is informational value (also called reference value or research value), defined as “The usefulness or significance of materials based on their content, independent of any intrinsic or evidential value.”

Items such as census records, birth records, and Civil War muster rolls contain a great deal of information that is valuable to genealogists and historians long after those documents have served the purposes for which they were originally created.  That informational value is one of the reasons that the WVRHC provides access to census records, retains county court documents, and keeps muster rolls in its Archives and Manuscripts.

Another good example of informational value is the collection of folk songs recorded by Patrick Ward Gainer (A&M 3003), one of the WVRHC’s folk music collections.  Gainer collected lyrics, musical notation, and audio recordings of regional folk music, all of which are rich with information about West Virginia’s past.  Thanks to Gainer, researchers can study the topics that West Virginians sang about (such as Mr. Frog, below) and how they performed these songs.

Blog entry by Jane Metters.

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