Recent developments in ICT have given hope to users of manuscript materials that some\ud of their old problems will now be solved. Their primary question is possibly to be\ud understood by the librarians and archivists who, more or less jealously, keep the\ud treasures they are interested in. Strangely enough, the world of users is very often not so\ud familiar to them. The worlds of librarians and archivists often differ more by the methods\ud they use, than by the material they manage. To know which manuscript materials are\ud kept by who is not always simple. National traditions, the fortuities of history and legal\ud regulations have produced intricate situations that cry for better cooperation between\ud those two worlds. According to the manuals used in the education of librarians or\ud archivists, the definition of ‘archives’ is clear and unambiguous, but if you compare the\ud manuals used in different countries, you observe fundamental differences, even\ud contradictions. The best-known example is what is mostly called in English, private\ud papers, in German Nachlässe, in Italian spogli, but in French, Dutch and other languages\ud you read archives privées or something similar. In fact these collections of letters,\ud personal notes and other documents received or written by a single person and kept by\ud him/her, are not considered archives in the true sense by most nineteenth-century\ud archivists and in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, where ‘archives’ is synonymous with ‘public\ud papers’ or better ‘public records’. Consequently, you rarely have to look for private\ud papers in British archival institutions, but in libraries. In most cases the content of the\ud collection is described according to the rules of manuscript cataloguing, whereas in those\ud countries where private papers form an important part of archival collections, they are\ud described according to archival standards
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