Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation/Information Resources Center


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Business Archives

The trajectory of individual companies is closely linked with various activities in society. Documents produced by companies, even though private, are of social and historical value because the company itself is an entity that influences society in many ways. With this in mind, we aim to compile a directory of archives that showcase the history of companies and other economic organizations.

For an introduction to the Shibusawa shashi project, business archives in Japan, and the general situation surrounding company history please see this article in Business Archives, Principles and Practice from 2006. For a look at the issues facing business archives around the world please see the e-book Leveraging Corporate Assets: New Global Directions for Business Archives.

What are Business Archives?
Business Archives Network
Directory of Business Archives

What are Business Archives?

Archives Produced by Businesses
First, business archives are the materials produced by joint-stock companies and other corporate bodies in the process of conducting business. These collections consist of documents, merchandise, advertisements, pictures, photographs, etc. They contain the materials on which shashi - company histories - are based and illustrate the organization's history while providing for corporate accountability and compliance.

Repositories of Business Archives
Second, business archives are the physical repositories containing materials. Some business archives are housed within and belong to the parent organizations, while others are independent or semi-independent facilities such as company-sponsored museums.

Business Archives are the basic resources for the study of Japanese business.  They are also the treasures of individual business organizations and, above all, by illustrating the role of these organizations within society, they demonstrate the importance of these organizations to society.

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Business Archives Network

Business Archives Association
Recent developments in business archives in Japan owe much to the activities of the Business Archives Association (BAA) and its members. The BAA was established in 1981 in an office within the Japan Business History Institute and receives financial and other assistance from the institute. With members from various sections of companies and other organizations interested in shashi, business archives, and records management, the BAA is the only specialized network of business archives in Japan.

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Directory of Business Archives

Directory of Corporate Museums
While directories of corporate museums and similar facilities, such as the Shinte'i kigyo hakubutsukan jiten ('Museums Established by Private Enterprises in Japan: A Directory, Revised Edition.' Tokyo: Nichigai Associates, 2003), and an online industrial database by the Japan Institute for Social and Economic Affairs (JISEA: Keizai Koho Senta) exist, thus far there has been no directory or database covering the business archives of Japanese companies. We aim, therefore, to fill this gap and make information on business archives available and accessible to a greater extent.

The Directory of Corporate Archives published by the Business Archives Council (BAC) in London, and the Directory of Corporate Archives in the United States and Canada, published by the Business Archives Section of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), are fine reference models. In addition, the National Register of Archives (NRA) maintained by the National Archives of the United Kingdom may be cited as another noteworthy instance of information sharing.

Offshore Archives
Some Japanese company records are located outside Japan. One well-known example is the cache of business records captured during World War II that later became part of the collection of the National Archives of Australia. We plan to incorporate this kind of information into our archives directory database as well.

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