History and Value Judgement: Recordkeeping History and Its Impact on Archives Awareness in Thailand

History can help explain how archives are valued in each society. This paper stems from my PhD research project, “A Comparative Study of Archival Access and Use in the UK and Thailand”, in which I examine how different societies value archives and how this affects archival access and use in order to address the problem of archives awareness in Thailand. Values and attitudes play an important role in how archives are valued. These two elements are shaped by information and experiences in different circumstances in history. The results of the study show that problems of archives use in Thailand are rooted in incompatibility between Thai societal values and Western ways to use and manage archives. The purpose of recordkeeping and use in the UK ranged at different times from keeping evidence of property and doing historical research to searching for identity and protecting one’s rights. In contrast, archives in Thailand have overwhelmingly been used by a limited number of historical researchers. This can be explained by a legacy of recordkeeping which is about keeping chronicles. The turning point was when the Thai recordkeeping system, as a part of the bureaucratic system, was Westernised to resist imperialist influence in the 19th century. The golden age of records management stayed for a short period of time and declined after the pressure from colonialism abated. This is because the values and perceptions attached to these archival systems did not fit the actual social contexts. Three themes relating to values and attitudes on archives, history, education and identity and rights, will be discussed. Finally, this paper will make some recommendations on archival access and use that suit Thai historical background and respond to emerging values in the changing society.

Naya Sucha-xaya is a third-year PhD student in Information Studies (Archive Studies) at University College London. Prior to her MA and her current study in London, she assisted in historical research on the dissemination of King Rama V’s Tipitaka (Buddhist sacred text) within Thailand and outside of the country in the nineteenth century, which inspired her to further her study in archives management as well as pursue her research interest in culture and history.