Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form


Mattern, Eleanor (2014) THE REPLEVIN PROCESS IN GOVERNMENT ARCHIVES: RECOVERY AND THE CONTENTIOUS QUESTION OF OWNERSHIP. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (2MB) | Preview


To an attorney practicing law in the common law system, the term “replevin” describes a legal remedy for recovering personal property held by another party. In this civil procedure, the determination of rightful ownership falls to the court. Archivists and manuscript collectors have appropriated this same term to describe any effort by a government archives to recover public records in private hands, whether these efforts involve the courts or are carried out informally through discussions and negotiations with private parties. The number of “true” replevin cases involving disputed public records is small and existing commentary in the archival literature focus on these judicial decisions. This dissertation examines the quieter cases, developing a sharper understanding of what replevin means to individuals who are charged with preserving records and to those who are personally driven to collect. Three state archives serve as case studies and semi-structured interviews with institutional employees, archival records, active records, statute and case law as data sources.

A consistent message emerging from discussions with government officials is that each replevin case is singular in the manner in which it is resolved. Still, there is an apparent pattern to the replevin of public records, conceptualized in this dissertation as a six-stage process. Each case begins with the discovery of the alienated record and results in a custody determination favoring either the government or the private party. This dissertation determines that variances in statute, case law, and the involvement of legal counsel strongly influence a government’s decision to pursue, the shape of negotiations, and the state’s ultimate ability to recover the targeted record.

The issue of replevin is one that has provoked friction between the community of government archivists and some members of the collecting community, a friction largely stemming from an ambiguous understanding of the nature of a “public record” and disagreement as to whether an archives should lay claim to records that never have been in its possession. This study probes the motivations of public officials pursuing public records and argues that it is in the public interest for public archives to have an active replevin agenda.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mattern, Eleanoremm100@pitt.eduEMM1000000-0002-0421-0983
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCox, Richard J. rcox@mail.sis.pitt.eduRJCOX
Committee MemberCurrier, James
Committee MemberBeaton, Brianbbeaton@pitt.eduBBEATON
Committee MemberLipinski, Tomas A.
Date: 15 July 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 May 2014
Approval Date: 15 July 2014
Submission Date: 18 June 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 264
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Information Sciences > Library and Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Archival studies, public records, replevin, archives and law, information policy, information ethics
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2014 19:07
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:21


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item