'An archives is a place where people go to find information. But rather than gathering information from books as you would in a library, people who do research in archives often gather firsthand facts, data, and evidence from letters, reports, notes, memos, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other primary sources.'
- Society of American Archivists, saa.org

Archives are materials that have been created by individuals, groups, or organizations during the course of their life or work and deemed to be worth keeping permanently for the purposes of research. These materials may be personal and unplanned—a photograph, a letter to a friend, notes toward a manuscript—or they may be official and widely shared—financial and legal documents, recordings of public speeches, medical files, and electronic records.

These records, and the places in which they are stored, are called archives, and archivists are the professionals who assess, collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to these records.