This article examines the relationship between custody, access, and provenance through a case study of the records of a former Danish colony, the United States Virgin Islands. In 1917, when the United States purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark, Danish archivists removed the majority of records created there during colonial rule and deposited them in the Danish National Archives. Following its establishment in the 1930s, the National Archives of the United States sent an archivist to the Virgin Islands to claim most of the remaining records and ship them to Washington. The native population of the Virgin Islands, primarily former colonials whose ancestors were brought from Africa as slaves, were left without access to the written sources that comprised their history. While all three parties have claims to custody of the records, the claim of the people of the Virgin Islands relies on an expanded definition of provenance that includes territoriality or locale, as well as on a custodial responsiblity for access. The competing custodial claims suggest a dissonance between legal custody, physical custody, and archival principles that may be resolvable through post-custodial management practices.

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