Custody and Chain of Custody

Authored by: Bernadette G. Callery

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Fourth Edition

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781466552593
eBook ISBN: 9781315116143
Adobe ISBN:


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Custody, the holding of records and objects in archives and museums for security and preservation reasons, has been a fundamental principle of collections management in those institutions. Having an unbroken chain of custody, that is, being able to accurately identify all the individuals and organizations that have owned these items since they were created, has been considered as an essential evidence of the authenticity of the object and supports the legality of its transfer from one owner to the next. However, legal custody does not necessarily imply legal ownership. In the late twentieth century, the usefulness of custody as a management principle has been challenged in museums by repatriation claims and in archival collections by replevin and the need to both preserve the authenticity and integrity of electronic records and to guarantee access to both paper and electronic records over time.

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