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Archival Research

Archival Research: Its Value to Social Science ResearchByAugusto V. de Viana, Ph.DChair, Department of HistoryUniversity of Santo TomasBy its very definition research from the French word researchemeans looking backOne can literally go back to the past by looking at its recordsThese records can be found in repositories such as the archives

An archive is a place Where people store their old records

It is different from the rare books section of a library where books considered old or out of print are keptRare books are those publications which are not anymore accessible and therefore have become rare and had to be more guarded

Archives or archival material refer to public records, papers, periodicals, books or other items, articles, or materials whether in the form of electronic, audio-visual, print , which by their value which by their nature and characteristics, have enduring archival value that that have been selected for permanent preservationBy definition according to the National Archives Act of 2007 (R.A. 9470) :

a building, a room, storage where archival materials are kept and preservedAs a place, it is:

Its function is to select, collect and preserve archival records and make such records available for public use. As an organization (or part of an organization):

Refers to recorded information regardless of medium and characteristics. It is frequently used interchangeably with recordsThe term document

The controlling government agency for the countrys archives is: The National Archives of the Philippines also known as the Philippine National Archives (PNA)

While most records are accessible to the public, there are records that are considered restricted because there exists a legal impediment or standard advice issued by the ExecutiveDirector of the Archives that such public records be withheld from public access

When it has custody of local government recordsThe UST also has its own archivesIt contains records about the University including wills, lists of students, grades, personnel etc. A local government may have a public archiveIt gives a view of the pastImportance of archival research

Its words are more Powerful than spokenonesArchival sources are authoritative sources

The impact of ones scholarship is judged by the amount of archival research is undertaken in the case of historical studies

ReportsPublic archives are those managed by the government.There are two types of archives in the country

The PNA contains documents from the Spanish period such asEreccion de PueblosCedulariosBautismosVecindariosDifuncionesGuia de ForasterosVarias ProvinciasSediciones y RebellionesAsuntos CriminalesPresidiosMarinaFilipinos IlustresPlanosGaceta de ManilaPrestacion Personal (Polos y Servicios)Other documents that pertain to aspects such as health i.e. lazaretosEconomic matters such as the Tobacco Monopoly, Opium Monopoly, maritima, agricola, etc. The main archives of the Philippines is the Philippine National Archives

Plano de Alcaiceria de Binondo

Aside from the national government, local governments also keep their own archivesThese contain matters of local interest like history, lists of people living in the area, births and deaths, local health matters, economy, industry and events that have taken place there The archives of the Archdiocese of Manila contain important documents such as BaptismsFoundations of parishes, dioceses and archdiocesesPastoral lettersReports from the various churchesLetters including retraction letters of Rizal and Marcelo H. del PilarControversial matters such as brujerias (witchcraft); divorce ( actually happened during the Spanish period)conflicts within the church such as rivalries between religious ordersThere are a number of private archives such as the ecclesiastical archivesThe Dominicans maintain their archive for their orderThe Jesuits have theirs at the AteneoThe Recollects have an archive at their Mission House in FairviewAside from the Archdiocesan Archives other religious orders maintain their own archivesMost of these are primary sources if they are reports, laws, letters, statements and statistical figuresArchival documents are prized for their historic value

Not all archival documents are primary sourcesThe researcher must be careful to discern a primary document from a secondary one

Others are now available in microfilm, microfiche and digital copiesSome can be accessed through the InternetEven genealogical records can now be accessed through the genealogical project of the Church of the Latter Day Saints based in Salt Lake City, Utah, USAMany archival documents are still in their original paper

It is therefore necessary to know the languageMany of the archival documents are in the Spanish langauge

There are many Spanish words not anymore used or the meaning has changedCajon means a division in a rice fieldThere are various terms indicating measurements such as vara for measuring length and quintal for weightThe Spanish legua or league is different from the English league One should also understand archival SpanishSuch as Dte Gde - Dios te Guarde, may God keep youCbllero CaballeroIdem same

There are also brief forms

The researcher must be able to read between the lines and understand the intent of the writer. He could be lying or making things up

Some documents though classified as primary, may have conflicting information

The researcher should discern truth from propaganda

In citing archival documents the researcher must write his sources accurately by citing the box number, expediente number and document number, and topici.e. PNA, Marianas, 1858-1898, Advertisement of putting up opium dens in the MarianasPNA, Marianas, Bundle 38, 1884PNA, Marianas, Bundle 33, Espediente 76, ff. 1-4, 1891In the words of William Henry Scott: One must see through the parchment curtain Archival research is an integral tool of historyIt unveils truth and destroys stereotypesIt reveals glossed-over detailsConclusion

By using archival materials the researcher is helping in their preservation by disseminating them as secondary material. Citing them restores their importance in history

The understanding of these documents conveys to us how Filipinos see themselves and presents to us what was life was during that point in history


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