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Margaret C. Norton (1891-1984) served as the first state archivist of Illinois (1922-1957). As a founding member of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), she served as its first vice president, as a council member, as president, and as editor of American Archivist. The common perception has been that Norton aligned her views with Hilary Jenkinson and European theorists in opposing the American historical manuscripts tradition and the dominant role of historians. A closer examination of her career and her unpublished writings, however, challenges this interpretation. An appreciation for Margaret Norton as a pragmatic archivist dedicated to the needs of public officials enables us to see her as a bold and consistent advocate for the significance of records in administration of state government. Norton adopted European archival principles such as provenance and the moral defense of archives, but she adapted them to the requirements of modem American records. She pleaded for recognition of archives as legal records, but she also recognized their secondary importance for historical research. Rather than pulling the profession apart into separate camps of historian-archivists and archivist-administrators or of practitioners and theorists, Norton’s legacy should remind archivists of their twin responsibilities for archives: to maintain both their legal and administrative integrity and their usefulness for historical research.

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Published by the Society of American Archivists