Information Studies


Geoffrey Yeo’s 2022 article on archival history wins two awards

Geoffrey Yeo
An article written by Geoffrey Yeo, Honorary Senior Research Fellow in UCL’s Department of Information Studies, has been selected as the winner of the Archival History Article Award of the Society of American Archivists for 2022-23 and of the Bob Williams Research Paper Award for 2023.

Yeo’s article is entitled ‘“Let Us See What Is Meant by the Word Recorde: Concepts of Record from the Middle Ages to the Early 20th Century’. It was published in the Canadian journal Archivaria in 2022 and is available ‘open access’ at https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13833/15225 (1)

The article forms part of Yeo’s ongoing research into the meanings, scope, and significance of key professional terms and concepts such as documents, archives, and records. Over the past two decades, Yeo has taken a particular interest in understandings and interpretations of the concept of record: he has examined what records are (or what they are perceived to be), how and why they are created, what roles they can perform in human societies, and how they may be interconnected with other related concepts such as data and information (2).

Recognizing that records have been perceived very differently in different societies and at different times, the article builds on this earlier research and extends its historical dimensions. It sets out to show how the word record had antecedents in ancient Rome but became characteristic of English-language writings in the medieval period, and it considers the gradual development and expansion of conceptual ideas about records and record-keeping from the Middle Ages to the post-World War II era. The article also reviews the dissemination of English understandings of records to other Anglophone countries, and it concludes with a brief exploration of points of contact between older debates about the term record and those of present-day professional and academic discourse.

The article belongs within, and contributes to, the burgeoning body of writings about archival history published in recent years by archivists, archival educators, and academic historians. It reflects and endorses the growing recognition among scholarly researchers that archives and records are not merely sources for studying other topics, but can and should be significant objects of research in themselves. Although recent decades have seen many new writings on the history of record-keeping practices, no previous author has attempted to study the history of records and record-keeping as concepts. The article thus breaks important new ground within this field. It aims both to encourage other scholars to take up research of this kind and to provide a basis on which such research could be built.

The Archival History Article Award is an annual award given by the Archival History Section of the Society of American Archivists to ‘an article, book chapter, or other short piece of superior excellence in the field of archival history’. The Bob Williams Research Paper Award commemorates Dr Robert V. Williams, an information scientist at the University of South Carolina, and is awarded by the Association for Information Science and Technology to an outstanding paper on the history of information science.

Yeo’s article is the first to win both of these prestigious awards.

1. Geoffrey Yeo, ‘“Let Us See What Is Meant by the Word Recorde”: Concepts of Record from the Middle Ages to the Early Twentieth Century’, Archivaria 93 (2022), 6-41.

2. His ideas on these subjects are set out in a number of publications, beginning with Geoffrey Yeo, ‘'Concepts of Record (1): Evidence, Information, and Persistent Representations', American Archivist 70.2 (2007), 315-43. For an overview, see Geoffrey Yeo, Records, Information and Data; Exploring the Role of Record-Keeping in an Information Culture (Facet Publishing, 2018).

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