4th section of this course
The core of archival theory
is topics that may make you weary.
How to process and acquire
will seem like quagmire
'til your records line up and look cheery.
VII. Collection development
- (READINGS, Ellis ch. 5; background: SEVERAL ARTICLES FROM NOV.-DEC. 1991 ARCHIVIST, p. 4-5, 25-27)
A. Collection development defined:
1. (Bressor, p. 3) "the process of building an institution's holdings of historical materials through acquisition activities." The acquisition activities are largely defined by a collecting policy, mission statement, and other long-range planning goals developed by the institution
2. Ellis 2nd ed. def. of acquisition (p. 137)--what processes does it involve?
B. Rationale of collecting
1. we collect for a purpose, not just to acquire
2. for whom? how?
C. Role of archivist in society and in collecting society's records
1. James O'Toole makes a case for the "exceptionalness" of archivists, suggesting that "archivists develop a way of looking at records that is peculiarly their own" (p. 49), different from the perspectives of either records creators or records users/researchers
2. archivist is bridge between researchers, who seek contextual information, and---
a. eyewitness accounts; evidentiary material helps to establish consequences and see developments
b. the best documents are immediate, not ex-post-facto renderings (corporate reports seldom say anything bad about the institution, whereas payroll records could establish the names of instrumentalists in the Glenn Miller Band)
c. a collection is more valuable if it covers various accounts of one period of history, collected in one place
d. a single item may not in and of itself possess outstanding historical significance, but the whole of the parts to which it belongs may be of great value
3. other end of the archival bridge is the creators of the materials
a. "The production and management of information are important activities of our post-industrial society. We are all faced in our personal and professional lives with 'information anxiety.'
b. Thus, acquiring archives and developing long-term memory of society means something quite different from what we have experienced in the past. It no longer involves saving `in extremis' portions of memory that are about to be lost, but rather making rational choices and selecting contributions that are worth handing down to future generations." (Archivist, Nov.-Dec. 1991, p. 12)
c. archivists' most difficult task today is to preserve the records of the last half of this century. Before that, and certainly in previous centuries, most of the records were textual. Today, "the new media of records no longer stand still but are constantly changing in a race to provide more information, faster, and in greater detail." (Archivist, Nov.-Dec. 1991, p. 30)
(1) The significance of electronic and audio-visual records increases steadily as we head toward the 21st century.
(2) Newscasts are overtaking newspapers, videotapes are overtaking books, and oral history tapes are gaining popularity as a means of documenting our past.
(3) "Television has taken command of the world's leisure time and has become the new medium of communication for politicians, educators, musicians and advertisers alike. The videotape recorder has suddenly extended this revolution beyond the broadcasting studio into the office, the classroom and the home...[and] has increased demand for audio-visual records of the past, which can now be presented in this new medium." (Archivist, Nov.-Dec. 1991, p. 31)
d. "Archival knowledge encompasses four areas: (quoting from Frank Mackaman's review of the O'Toole book in Spring '91 AA)
(1) individuals, organizations, and institutions
(2) the records themselves
(3) the use of records and
(4) the principles best suited to organizing and managing these records.
e. The accumulation of this knowledge gives the archivist unusual insight into `the complexity of life and the variety of its expressions' (p. 50) and puts the archivist 'in a better position than anyone else to see [the records'] broad and constantly changing usefulness' (p.54)." (p. 302)
D. Acquisition policy (A.P.)/ collecting policy guidelines
1. what are the advantages of having an a.p.?
a. it focuses acquisitions
b. objective standard for turning away potential but inappropriate donors and refer them to appropriate repository
c. enables us to set bounds, to keep the whole of our task feasible
d. guards us from being pressured into acquiring "A&E" (anything and everything)
2. factors that shape the collecting policy:
a. nature of institution
(1) the parent organization's goals and programs
(2) type of instit. it is; college/university A.P.s depend on whether state or private, research institution or teaching, faculty strengths, age of institution (the older it is, the more diverse its holdings)
(3) previous policies and programs explored or implemented by the archives and by the parent institution
(a) tradition, e.g. most congressmen's papers go back to the state or district
b. what already exists in the collections
(1) build on your strengths
(2) evaluate weak areas
c. your physical, technical and financial ability to accept material
d. the collecting activities and goals of other organizations in your community or region
(1) avoid duplication
(2) coordinate collecting activities where possible
(3) archivists ought to trade collections to their more suitable repositories
e. the documentary needs of your clientele
3. it takes 2 forms: published and unpublished
a. published is preferable
(1) esp. printed in a pamphlet
(2) to be shared with potential donors and staff
b. at any rate, it is a written statement which (Bressor, p. 3):
(1) states the purpose of the archives program
(2) cites the authority which enables the program to exist, and which mentions any governing regulations to be observed; it may include mention of activities undertaken by law, and those that are in addition to statutory or regulatory mandates
(3) explains what material will be accepted, and under what conditions
(4) articulates any access or copyright restrictions which users must observe
c. it should be constructed in close consultation with the archives' governing body
d. it is dynamic, not always successful, influenced by funding and by donations
e. it should be widely distributed, closely adhered to, and periodically evaluated
E. Administrative methodology in collecting
1. active, not passive; what's the difference, and what are the costs of an active program? (p. 137-138)
2. look for materials documenting watersheds, important changes, beginnings of trends, and their initiators
3. look for estrays -- what are they? (hint: not referring to lost cows) (Ellis p. 148)
F. Donor relations
1. archivists and curators depend on donors for the bulk of their collections
a. the process involves delineating a collecting policy and sticking with it, identifying potential donors, soliciting donations and negotiating their acquisition, marketing one's repository (public relations), accessioning appropriate materials, and complying with legalities and matters of ethics
b. all too often, unfortunately, archivists and curators fail to take adequate control of the acquisitions process; result is, they miss collections that would complement or enhance their holdings, and they accept material that doesn't
c. it's not just reading the obituaries, but contacting potential donors before they die, to make provisions in their wills or before then
2. steps in donor relations
a. initiate contact
(1) send a businesslike letter, attuned to the situation
(2) components of the letter
(a) acknowledge the person's contribution
(b) explaining the institution's A.P. (enclose brochure)
(c) mention related materials already in the collection
(d) state why you would like to discuss the possibilities of acquisition and how you'll be following this up (you take the responsibility), without making any commitments
(3) use people who know the potential donor -- indirect approach
(4) use someone as a front - someone with a name and a reputation
b. court the potential donor
(1) heirs may play hard to get, undecided, may overvalue the mss. and desire financial gain
(2) may find the best route is donation to non-profit institution, for tax credit
(3) + role play exercise #6 from Trudy Peterson's handbook (p. 19-20), re negotiating a deed of gift during class
c. establish donor file/ case file (see below)
(1) this file documents all of the steps involved in accessioning a collection, from initial donor identification and contact to storing the new acquisition in the repository
(2) named after the collection you're desiring
(3) it should be arranged by donor name, using the accession number as a cross-reference, or it could be included in the collection file
(4) file contents
(a) vita/photocopy from Who's Who
(c) associations of the individual, and
(d) the instrument of transfer or (if it's something that already is among your holdings) a note indicating its possible origins
(e) copies of all correspondence, communications about the acquisition/attempts, including your dated acknowledgement of the receipt of the materials
(f) description(s) of contents of collection, including photographs, copies or other descriptions of the material for insurance purposes
(g) copy of publicity articles
(h) copies of appraisals
(i) other pertinent information.
d. make a "solicitation trip"
(1) try to spend time alone with the materials
(2) their content is more important than their form
(3) pre-accessioning inspection: make rough estimate of quantity, by type (e.g. 3 scrapbooks, 1 file drawer of letters) and by the physical characteristics of that type (carton size)
e. close the negotiations -- assume ownership, formalized, by establishing terms of donation, by one of five possible means stated below (Ellis, p. 150-151, 153-154)
3. etiquette of good donor relations
a. good donor relations = good public relations. They involve:
b. taking the initiative of obtaining the materials from the donor, then keep records of accessions, to prove ownership in case of theft or of subsequent reconsiderations by heirs/donor
c. sending written acknowledgement of your appreciation of the donor's gift
d. with the donor's approval, issuing publicity about the gift and the repository's acceptance of it
e. offering the donor a repository tour
(1) provide an insider's look at how a new collection is handled
(2) explain the functions of accessioning, arrangement and description, the importance of proper storage, and the costs and time involved in administering a collection
f. sending the donor a copy of your finding aid for the donated material, or a preliminary listing if the complete finding aid will be a long time coming
G. Five means of making an archival acquisition
a. def.: legal transfer of records from a specified competent donor to a specified repository
b. use a deed of gift - legal document transferring ownership
(1) guidelines for deed of gift
(a) make sure the donor has the right and the authority to deed over ownership (esp. in multi-heir situations)
(b) decide access terms (e.g. delay public access until 10 years after person's death)
i) try to limit restrictions, or apply them to only a few items in the donation, and with a deadline
ii) do your best to avoid imposition of restrictions
iii) it is possible to permit access but restrict copy-making or notetaking)
iv) restrictions should clearly state what specific materials are restricted, who can lift the restriction, when it will be lifted, and by what authority it is made
(c) spell out rights of disposal (not accepting everything forever)
(d) detail rights of copying and distribution and literary property rights/copyright --donor can only decide literary rights to MSS they control, not to materials written by someone else, for instance
(e) inform donor of tax law (no deduction if donated by the creator) and availability of 3rd party appraisal (monetary appraisal)
(2) elements of deed of gift (Ellis, p. 151)
(a) clear description of contents conveyed (a pre-accession list)
(b) names and signatures of the donor and the repository's representative and the date of the transfer of title
(c) explicit conveyance of copyright (note that a donor can transfer only the copyright he/she possesses)
(d) explicit statement of any access restrictions
(e) statement of how the repository will dispose of inappropriate materials
c. deal with the need for an monetary appraisal of the gift
(1) four purposes of a monetary appraisal
(a) to determine the tax deduction the donor is entitled to claim, or
(b) to determine the fair market value a repository should pay for a collection, or
(c) to meet the settlement requirements of a donor's estate, or
(d) to provide insurance coverage
(2) note that
(a) it's against IRS regulations for the repository staff to appraise incoming collections, and
(b) IRS rules state that a donor cannot take a tax deduction on materials the donor has generated
2. bequest --in a will
3. transfer from one agency or institution to another --using an instrument of transfer
4. purchase --using a bill of sale /purchase agreement
a. shows ownership of what you bought, and price paid
b. defined as a document signed by the seller and your repository when you acquire materials through purchase from a dealer, auctioneer, or individual. It should cover all points mentioned for a deed of gift, but show clearly that this was a purchase.
5. loan --using an instrument of deposit (deposit agreement)
a. deposit agreement is a document that articulates the donor's intent to transfer title of an item or a collection to your repository at a future date. Elements of deposit agreement
b. guidelines for devising this instrument
(1) understood intention to sign them over eventually
(2) never open-ended, but stating a time limit, e.g. after 1 year a decision will be made whereby the institution can return the collection to donor at donor's expense
(3) repository won't begin processing until decision is made
(4) may spread out donations over years to spread out tax credits
c. elements of deposit agreement
(1) describe the materials being deposited
(2) set a definite time limit on the deposit/transfer of ownership to your repository in the event of the depositor's death
(3) state the repository's liability for damage to the deposited material
(4) state the access conditions to the collection, including any access or use restrictions
(5) define the repository's responsibility for the collection, and what types of preservation and other work the archives must perform
(6) include names and signatures of the depositor and the repository's representative and the date of the deposit agreement
VIII. Archival appraisal
A. Two meanings of the word “appraisal”:
1. assigning monetary value (as described above)
2. intellectual evaluation of the materials with an eye to deciding what to save
a. deciding what to keep and what to toss
b. a process of identifying and evaluating
c. this latter meaning of the term is our focus
d. definition: (Bressor, p. 5) "the process of determining the value, and thus the disposition, of records based on the following: current administrative, legal, and fiscal use; evidential and informational or research value; arrangement; relationship to other records."
B. Archivists must have an appraisal process, or the paper flood will make the intellectual control impossible
1. must be able to allow the archivist and researcher to determine what's in the material
2. appraisal is the most challenging aspect of archival work.
a. often, archivists are called upon "to examine--often under less than ideal working conditions--vast quantities of records, to recognize instantly and with pinpoint accuracy those of archival value, and to justify decisions on their permanent worth in written reports. ... the quality of appraisal determines the lasting value of the records that end up in the archives." (The Archivist, July-Aug. 1986, p. 3)
b. (Canadian National Archivist/Dominion Archivist Wilfred Smith, in The Archivist, Sept.-Oct. 1984, p. 5): "when you're selecting you can't afford to have a bias; you must be objective. We used to say historians were objective, but now we realize that they don't pretend to be. But...archivists...have to forget what they are interested in and choose what is of lasting significance. Occasionally...archivists say that what we keep depends on what historians want. But...if the archivists have been doing their job properly, they will keep what is important, and it may be many years before historians may realize its value. But when they do, they should be able to find it in the Archives."
c. geometric increase of American population, governmental activity, public records since the mid 18th century means that we must reduce the volume of records to make them useful for research
d. archivists are Calvinistic
(1) we believe that certain records are predestined, even before their generation, for either salvation or the flames
(2) accessioning follows the period of purgatory in the records center
C. Appraisal questions focus on the (1) characteristics and (2) values of the records
1. identify the records' characteristics
a. what type of records are they? Are they textual or non-textual?
b. what is (or was) their purpose? Who created them?
c. how old are they?
d. what condition are they in? Do they need conservation work? fumigation?
(1) sometimes, acquiring an archival holding is like opening Pandora's box. The National Archives of Canada acquired a collection which documented the beginnings of the nuclear industry in Canada. What they discovered was many damp, moldy records that had to be dried and cleaned immediately, and those which had been attacked by insects had to be frozen temporarily before their content could even be appraised. Later, it was found that some significant groups of materials were composed solely of photocopies--the originals had been destroyed because they had been exposed to nuclear radiation. (The Archivist, Nov.-Dec. 1991, p. 23)
e. do they duplicate other records in our office or institution, or somewhere else? Are there similar records?
f. are they in a useful/accessible form? (see also, Informational values, tests of)
g. what is their extent? Do we have adequate storage space, supplies and staff to process them? Can we afford to accession them?
2. identify the records' values
a. Theodore R. Schellenberg remains the soundest theoretician for the appraisal of archival records (The Appraisal of Modern Public Records (1956))
b. primary values of records are their benefit to the originating agency itself, for administrative, legal, fiscal, etc. ends; their current value to the people who created them
(1) administrative - useful to the creators in the conduct of their current business
(2) legal - they document legal rights, duties, and obligations
(3) fiscal - they document required financial functions
c. secondary values are the records' benefit to other users, long after the records have served any administrative function; 2 aspects of the secondary values:
(1) evidential values
(a) defined as info in the collection which document the functioning and the administrative organization of the creating institution or person
i) evidence of the organization and its activities
ii) e.g., answering the question, what was the FBI doing?
(b) European views on evidential values:
i) Germans have been the most precise
ii) in 1901, H.O. Meissner, head of Prussian Privy State Archives, formulated appraisal standards which influenced the German archival profession
a) files that related to executive direction should be preserved for each organization unit (i.e., organizational charts, personnel records, directives, policy statements)
b) general files (such as policy and procedure records) should be preserved in the central organizational units, not where they were sent
c) preserve the records of intermediate organizational units if they relate to the actual management of the units
d) preserve special files of subordinate organizational units if they relate to the actual management of the units
e) retain files of judicial bodies if they concern substantive activities of such bodies or reflect the development of permanent rights and institutions, historical events, political processes
iii) WW II demand for paper salvage spurred the British Public Record Office to establish principles of appraisal; British also emphasized organic relationships of generating agencies
(2) informational values
(a) these pertain to the info existing in the materials
(b) info about the persons, things, bodies, problems and conditions at the time when the records were being created
(c) e.g., answering the question, what does the FBI have on Joe Blow?
(d) records' information value is what the records tell us about persons, places, subjects, and events
(e) more on this later!
D. Pyramid of records created:
ca. are 3%policy - save almost all of it
ca. are 12%program = records of what the inst. is doing; this is where appraisal is difficult
ca. are 85%housekeeping = personnel records, rent, supplies - don't save much
1. (Greg Bradsher, OEH Newsletter) - National Archives and Records Administration only retains one 7/8th of federal records
2. e-mail 6/2/92 (see) - about 60% of current gov't data never reaches hard copy form, it's electronic
E. What should be preserved?
1. policy documents
a. guiding principles for a course of action to be followed
b. procedures are detailed instructions on specific methods and steps for carrying out policies
2. records about the origins of an agency or undertaking; often the object of the program is most clearly stated at the beginning
3. records on substantive programs, e.g. summary narrative accounts (annual reports, agency histories), though the archivist's function is to preserve the evidence on which reinterpretations can be based, not merely to preserve current official interpretations of evidence
4. budgets submitted, and the chief legal officer's correspondence, opinions and interpretations
5. research and investigations records
6. public relations publications
7. items with intrinsic value = records which must be retained as originals, because only the original will do; otherwise, could they be microfilmed and discarded?
8. a sampling of case files about: significant normal actions, new programs, and significant deviations from the norm
F. Appraisal techniques
Sampling is one of three main techniques used in appraising large collections:
1. collective appraisal features preparation of disposition schedules
a. scheduling = making a list of everything that exists (or may not exist) from an organization, and making a decision for each entry whether to retain, discard, or retain temporarily
b. "schedules are documents prepared by...records managers...that describe the length of time groupings of related records are to be kept by an agency for operational or legal purposes and the length of time they are to be kept" in records centers as dormant records or in archives as permanently valuable records after that. (The Archivist, July-Aug. 1986, p. 6)
c. this method underscores the importance of records management as an ongoing appraisal activity
d. becoming involved in the development and implementation of retention and disposal schedules usually is the archivist's best opportunity for appraising the records of an institution
2. weeding = removing items which are considered to have little or no value; these might include copies, circulars, and forms. Weeding decreases collection size and improves collection focus.
3. sampling = the selection of records which best reflect the functions and activities of the creator
a. four types of sampling (from Trudy Peterson, Asst. Archivist, National Archives):
(1) statistical = based on mathematical techniques which determine the number of samples to choose, & how to choose them, in order to preserve a statistically valid sample
(2) systematical = selective sampling by filing scheme, but without regard for content of the file (e.g., every 20th file, or every file over 1" thick, or every "c" file)
-both above methods disregard content
(3) exemplary = focussing on certain characteristics (e.g., files of a typical set, or of a certain geographic locale)
(4) exceptional = files on an unusual situation, those that show the setting of a precedent, those about a V.I.P., etc.
b. pros and cons of these 4 methods:
(a) can be used to reconstruct the whole,
(b) is easy to plan for (archivist saves room for this quantity each year, and the files are uniform and therefore easy to pull)
(c) is theoretically unbiased
(d) but it's a poor means of preserving the exceptional,
(e) it's very complicated when files aren't numbered.
(f) you can't trace an individual or place over time in files pulled this way
(g) you first need to stratify the records to make sure your sample picks up files from each level within the one filing system
(a) very easy to implement, without any expertise
(b) if you can determine an average filing size, and then take every file of that size and larger you'll get most of the interesting cases
(c) Peterson's experience in appraising FBI files showed that the "fat file" theory holds
(d) but it may or may not be statistically valid,
(e) if you don't use the fat file theory, you'll miss the exceptional cases
(f) you're sunk if you use the first letter of the surname, because of ethnic overbalances (Finns have no G's; there are lots of German H's), and first names are only slightly better; thus, users view this method skeptically
(g) at any rate, you can't control the size of the collection you'll preserve
(a) advantages are completeness, unity, continuity over time
(b) can be tailored to the highest user demand
(c) but, researchers will differ with your choice of what's typical,
(d) this method requires great substantive expertise,
(e) it doesn't give a statistically valid sample, and
(f) you can't control the volume
a) you can choose the files that most people will come to see
(b) but, this method skews the view of the whole
(c) it is time-consuming, and
(d) it reflects the changing cultural values of what's considered exceptional
c. often, a combination is used - but, you must first pull a statistically valid sample of the whole, then add to it some exceptional cases, etc.
G. Informational values; 3 tests:
a. of the info, and of the records containing the info (Schellenberg, Appraisal, p. 22)
b. unique info is not to be found in other documentary sources in as complete and as usable a form (info in public records seldom is completely unique)
c. to make a determination of unique records, the archivist should know of all the significant documentation that relates to his/her field of specialty, so records being appraised can be compared with all other published and unpublished sources of info on the matter, to avoid duplication
d. Meissner: "old age is to be respected" in records, because our ancestors couldn't publish or duplicate records easily, and because many records have been lost through the centuries; the nations' archivists set date lines before which they preserve all records (Germany 1700; England 1750; France 1830; Italy and U.S. 1861)
e. unique records and those with intrinsic value, including those with important signatures, may have monetary value
2. form - of the information and of the records
a. form of records refers to their physical condition, ease of use ("without resort to expensive mechanical or electronic equipment"! p. 25), and arrangement (that which best facilitates the extraction of info)
b. form of info refers to the degree to which the info is concentrated (if it is, preserve it)
(1) extensive = a few facts about many persons, things, or phenomenon (census schedules, shipping/passenger lists)
(2) intensive = many facts about a few persons, things, or phenomenon (legal case files)
(3) diversified = many facts about many persons, things, or phenomenon (reports of consular officials)
c. questions to ask:
(1) is this a complete collection?
(2) are there duplicates?
(3) what is its extent?
(4) do these materials fit with our collection policy?
(5) how do these records relate to other collections or to other records generated by the same creator?
(6) do they fill a gap in our holdings?
a. here (p. 25) "the archivist is in the realm of the imponderable, for who can say definitely if a given body of records is important, and for what purpose, and to whom?"
b. first obligation is to preserve records containing info that the generating institution may need itself
c. then, preserve for the researcher, esp. the historian and other social scientists, not for the unlikely users
d. (Philip Brooks) "'most records having historical value possess it not as individual documents but as groups which, considered together, reflect the activities of some organization or person or portray everyday, rather than unique, events and conditions.'" (p. 26)
e. generally, the more important the person or thing, the more important is the record relating to it
f. before applying the test of importance, be sure that the records pass the tests of uniqueness and form (which are more objectively determined)
H. Electronic records raise new conceptual issues
1. should complex electronic records be accessioned at all?
2. if so, at what point in their life cycle should they be accessioned?
3. should data files be treated as discrete items, as in the past, or should they be integrated into archival contextual, multimedia series?
4. should dependent software and documentation be considered part of the "record" accessioned?
5. summary question: will traditional theoretical approaches and practices serve, or must they be modified by the special problems of the new media?
I. Summary: appraisal questions:
1. what is the rate of accumulation?
2. is there duplication?
3. what is the degree of expected use?
4. what are the informational and evidential values?
5. what will be the costs of retention? Can we afford to accession them? Do we have adequate storage space, supplies and staff? (Cost is not a major consideration if the records are small in volume and have identifiable research value for the institution.)
6. (Schellenberg, Appraisal, p. 44 conclusions) "Since appraisal standards cannot be made exact or precise, it follows that they need not be applied with absolute consistency. ... Since appraisal standards cannot be made absolute or final, they should be applied with moderation and common sense. An archivist should keep neither too much nor too little."
IX. Accessioning = (Julie Bressor, p. 8) "the act of transferring physical and legal custody of historical records from a donor or other source to your repository."
1. accession records include the following 3 instruments of transfer and 2 administrative records:
a. DEED OF GIFT (described below)
b. DEPOSIT AGREEMENT (described below)
c. PURCHASE AGREEMENT (described below)
d. ACCESSION LIST OR LOG = a numerical or chronological list of a repository's donations and purchases
(1) it provides a cumulative look at a repository's acquisitions
(2) assign an accession number to incoming materials as soon as possible, using a sequential system or adapting the traditional museum accession method which assigns each accession a number within the year it was received (e.g., 90-001)
(3) record the accession number on the instrument of transfer
(4) record the accession number, a brief description, and the item location in the accession log
(5) the accession number may be used in marking boxes, folders, and individual items
(6) accessioning controls
(a) this process is changing rapidly with automation
(b) principle: want 3 ways of accessing these accessions files:
i) by title of file
ii) by name of donor - handy for year-end report
iii) by accession number -- usual format is 1985-138, i.e. year of donation and the #th accession that year
(c) accession number is necessary because
i) collections from the same individual may be scattered throughout several donations, and a collection can be composed of a number of separate accessions
ii) there should be an intellectual way of reconstructing how they were obtained, for legal purposes
iii) backlogged unprocessed collections are usually filed numerically by accession number
iv) accession number is link to case file which contains description of contents