Workbook on Digital Private Papers > Working with record creators > The nature of personal digital archives

The nature of personal digital archives

Defining 'personal archives'

During Paradigm's initial visits to politicians and their staff it became obvious that in order to explain the project brief and the significance of personal political archives a clear definition of what is meant by 'personal archives' was needed. Pinning down a clear definition of personal archives (also known as private papers, personal records and manuscripts) and why they are important is challenging. Individuals are complex, multi-dimensional entities and throughout their working and personal day-to-day lives they adopt various roles, the boundaries of which are often blurred.

Personal archives will often comprise personal, occupational, professional and special interest records. The politicians participating in the Paradigm project were naturally reluctant to place current personal material, or confidential records relating to third parties, in a library, especially for the purposes of a testbed project. Therefore, while the project explored the impact of digital living on the more personal types of personal archival materials, the exemplar material accessioned during the course of the project reflected the professional, rather than the personal, roles of participating politicians. As such, it included policy briefings, drafts of speeches and other internal documents generated by the politicians' private offices.