In the first of a two-part article, the author examines the negotiated order that formed around the early conception of the purpose and function of archival classification and arrangement. Drawing from the literature that covers the first sixty years of the development of the American archival profession, the article reveals the historical, social, economic, and technological forces, as well as the specific professional circumstances and interests, in which these principles and processes emerged. In doing so, archival classification is presented as an infrastructural tool that is available for, and understandable to, members of the profession. The picture that emerges is one in which notions of classification and arrangement are emblematic of the profession's identity and aspirations, associated with certain configurations of bureaucracy and technology, embodied in tacit and stated knowledge, accomplished and materialized through experiential practice, yet ever emergent and contested in response to changing social and political realities.

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