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What Is an Enduring Value?

Alex Newth
Alex Newth

Something is said to have enduring value when it has historical significance or another form of worth that is expected to last well into the future. While many artistic documents have enduring value, including artists’ manifestos and literary works, this term also is often used for legal and business documents. The reasons for keeping a document are varied, but they usually involve the document containing information that is new, revolutionary or expected to be useful in the future. On average, documents with enduring value are less than 5 percent of all documents made. The organizations responsible for the documents normally do not determine which documents are valuable; this is usually left to archivists.

Many types of documents can be said to have enduring value. While this term can be used for literary works and drawings, it is more commonly used for business and legal documents. These documents are rarely picked for their value right after they are made; archivists usually wait several years to see how enduring their effects are to determine whether these documents have real archival value.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

Ordinary documents are not considered to have enduring value; only extraordinary documents are permanently archived for later use and research. There are many reasons for this to occur, but it is usually because the documents contain information that is indispensable or revolutionary. For example, legal documents that detail a court decision that dramatically changed how other courts view the issue in question would be considered to have lasting value; legal documents about a common court case would not be considered to have lasting value.

Very few documents are considered to have enduring value, because most documents detail common events that, while useful to the business or office making the documents, are not useful to the world at large. On average, less than 5 percent of all documents created are considered to have archival value. Other documents may be archived by a business for several years, but they are usually destroyed when they are no longer of use. Even if the establishment keeps the documents permanently archived, they are only considered to have permanent value if an archiving establishment agrees on their value.

While the establishment responsible for a document may be able to elect it for enduring value, this is rare. Archivists are usually responsible for finding and determining which documents are useful for the future. A team of archivists usually makes this decision after reviewing a document's information, its lasting effect and whether the document is the first to detail the valuable information. Some documents that are not the first to report valuable information are archived, but they are usually not considered as valuable.

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