This article grounds the development of labor archives in the context of the archival profession. For the first half of the twentieth century, modest efforts to collect labor records were firmly rooted in the historical manuscripts tradition. By the 1960s, the flourishing public archives programs and the emergence of the new social history spurred a boom in labor archives. This boom ended in the 1980s, as unions faced tougher times and many institutions cut their support for archives programs. Today, the survival of labor archives programs depends on archivists forging a closer relationship with the labor movement, especially by establishing records- and knowledge-management partnerships. But first they must prove their worth to the labor movement. This process begins by examining the history, theory, and practice of the discipline.

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