Chapter 5 An Archives of Truth: Moravian Recordkeeping and Archival Selection

In: Moravian Americans and their Neighbors, 1772-1822
Author:
Paul Peucker
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Abstract

Archival records are created with intent and are preserved -- or sometimes destroyed -- with a purpose. Archivists therefore question the traditional idea of the archives as an impartial collection of documents able to give the historian objective insight into the past. Although Moravians have traditionally been considered good record keepers, substantial amounts of documents were destroyed between 1760 and 1810.

When the Unity Archives was founded as the central archives for the worldwide Moravian Church in 1764, a group of specially appointed “revisers” sifted through the material and destroyed documents that did not fit the reinvented image of the Moravian Church of the post-Zinzendorf era. By controlling the content of their archives, Moravians tried to manipulate the historiography of their church. As this presentation will argue, the work of the Moravian archivist was not invisible; on the contrary, the archivist edited the surviving record.

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