Archives Management


Seminar-Workshop on Asia-Pacific Forum for Library and Achives Management Training
Bangalore, India, UTC- June 1-30, 2004

Archives Management
Martha Lund Smalley

Archives Management: Part I: Setting the stage

Types of collections in a repository:
1. Records of your organization
- official/non-official
- predecessor organizations
2. Administrator / faculty papers
3. Personal papers and/or archival collections gathered to document a particular subject area / era / etc.
4. Records of parent organizations

Types of materials:
- Administrative records
- Minutes, annual reports, committee records
- Program documentation
- Publications
- Financial records
- Student records
- Correspondence
- Writings
- Artifacts / memorabilia
- Photographs / videos
- Rare books and manuscripts

Be realistic about what you can
create and sustain.

What is needed to proceed?
Commitment of support for:
- Staff
- Space
- Materials
Statement of Goals & Policies
A foundational document, “for the record”
- Have it in written form & distributed!
- Defines the rationale and parameters for your archives program

Content of the Statement of Goals
- Whose records are being collected?
- Who is going to use the records?
- What is the relationship between the archives repository and creator of the archives?
- Who (specifically which person) is responsible for caring for the archives?

Collection Development policy:
- How will you collect it?
Use Policy:
- Who is allowed to use materials?
- How will the use of materials be regulated?
- What about photocopying, borrowing, etc.?

Get it in writing!!
- Organization is committed to provide staff, space, and materials
- You know in theory what types of records we will seek to collect.
- You know who will be allowed to use these records and in what setting.

Getting the material into the repository:
Acquisition: obtaining material
Accession: registering material
Appraisal: determining the value of material

Make an inventory what is already “in house”
Gather appropriate materials from offices or individuals who have them.
If you need to create new content, consider the following:
- Ask appropriate leaders to write down their memories.
- Send a questionnaire asking for information.
- Develop an oral history project

Register incoming material with paper-based records or a simple computer database or spreadsheet

Additional record-keeping:
- Deed of Gift form for personal papers - formal agreement that the person has donated his/her papers.
- Organizational agreement - formal agreement regarding the donation or deposit of records in the archives.

For currently-produced records of your institution, Records Management is the key:
- It’s about being proactive instead of reactive
- Begin with a survey or inventory of the types of records being produced by your organization.
- Communicate with the people who are creating these records.
- Write down your policy about retaining records - make a “records retention schedule”

In most situations, records fall into the following four categories:
1. Records that are used daily or weekly -- should be close at hand in the organization’s office
2. Records that are used infrequently (monthly or a few times a year), or which need to be retained for a set period of years -- can be stored in a more remote storage area (e.g., a storeroom within the office).
3. Records that have historic value but are not used frequently -- should be deposited in the organization’s archives, a safe and secure place
4. Records that do not have lasting legal or historic value, are no longer used, and are not needed for tax or legal purposes -- should be discarded.

Have an “Archives Day”
- Many organizations find it useful to have one day annually when records are evaluated.
- On this “archives day,” infrequently used records are removed from current office files and placed in boxes that are clearly labeled with an indication of the contents and the date until which they should be retained.
- Records with historic value are sent to the archives.
- Records without lasting value are destroyed or recycled.
- On this day, the records manager should check the storage area and disperse all records dated for removal.

Appraisal: deciding exactly what to keep
* It’s okay to discard some material!
* Don’t discard on an item-by-item basis - too time consuming
* Types of things that can be discarded:
- Multiple copies - 2 is enough to keep
- Printed material from another organization
- Redundant financial records
- Routine administrative material

How do we decide about the value of records?
- Primary value- the records’ functional use to the person or agency that created them.
- Secondary value - their value for research, both now and in the future.
- “Archival” value - how do they fit in to your context?

Archives Management Part II Arrangement and Description

What’s the difference between an archivist and a file clerk?
- An archivist has a sense of perspective.
- The archivist has a role in forming the history of an organization or person.
- This power to form the history is regulated by certain archival principles

Arrangement and description
- Increasing standardization in the archival field.
- But there is no one right way to do things!

A little bit of archival theory:
The concept of "provenance” (originating source): records generated by a particular individual or agency should be kept together, not mixed with records from another individual or agency.

Another archival concept:
- When records come to a repository with an existing system of organization, this system should be kept intact as much as possible. . The archivist's task is to discover or clarify this system of organization and keep it intact.
- This is more true for organizational archives than for personal papers.

Step 1: Preliminary Inventory
Step 2: Initial sorting / grouping / establishing “record groups”
Step 3: Establish “series”
Step 4: Organize material within series
Step 5: Put the records in folders (best quality available); label and number the folders & put in containers
Step 6: Prepare a finding aid
Step 7: Make a catalog record

Step 1: Preliminary Inventory
- Find and read material that provides an idea of the background and significance of the individuals or organizations in question.
- Go through each box or file cabinet drawer and make a preliminary inventory of what types of material are present
- Preserve the original order of the collection at this stage.

Step 2: Initial sorting / grouping / establishing “record groups”
- You may need to establish the “provenance” of the material. Who generated or created the records?
- A “record group” reflects the source or provenance of the material.

Example of establishing record groups: A seminary has
- Annual reports of seminary
- Faculty minutes
- Personnel Committee /other committees
- Publications / events / programs of seminary
- Records of local churches
- Souvenir booklets of local Christian schools
- Unpublished biographies of church leaders
- Church conference journals
- Student papers on individual churches
- Photographs

- Record Group #1: Archives of the Seminary
- Record Group #2: Local Church and School Records
- Record Group #3: Records of Parent Church Body

Step 3: Establish “series”
- A series is a grouping of similar material within the larger record group. The material may be similar in format or in purpose. The series can be defined in any manner that makes sense.
- Creating series allows for a kind of architecture or structure that will make the collection as a whole easier to describe and access.

Some possible series titles:
- Legal and policy records
- Formational documents
- Committee records
- Correspondence
- Executive director’s files
- Collected material
- Financial records
- Audio-visual materials

Example of Record Groups and Series at academic institution (Lady Doak College):
Record Group 1: Administrative Records
- Formational documents
- Principal’s office [Files, reports, minutes]
- Bursar’s office [Budget, scholarships, etc.]
Record Group 2: Academic Affairs
- Dean’s office [Academic Council reports, etc.]
- Academic calendars, course bulletins

Record Group 3: Student & Alumnae Records
- Vice Principal’s office [Attendance, Alumnae records, students database]
- Student Services office [Student activities, Union, clubs]
Record Group No. 4: Administrator and Faculty Records
- Material regarding founder
- Biographical material or publications for other administrators or faculty
Record Group No. 5: Departmental Records
- By department
- Seminars, conferences
- Activities: invitations, reports
- Publications
- Library
- Record Group No. 6: Programs and Centers
- Child programs
- Women’s Study Center, Etc.
Record Group No. 7: Publications
- Books
- Brochures, publicity
- Record Group No. 8: Photographs
- Faculty and administrators
- Student activities
- Buildings….etc.
Record Group No. 9: Collected Material and Related Organizations
- Material from other colleges, etc..….

Step 4: Organize material within series:
- Put each series into an appropriate order - alphabetically, chronologically, by subject, by type, or whatever.
- But not all materials are important enough to warrant painstaking efforts to put them in alphabetical or chronological order.
- Use common sense

Step 5: If possible, put the records in new acid-free folders
- Putting records into folders of manageable size facilitates identification of appropriate segments of the records and makes it more likely that the records will be kept in good order when they are used in the future.
- Label the folders with descriptive headings, not with a list of each item in the folder.
- It is useful to number the folders -- and the boxes, or drawers in which the folders are housed -- so that material can be more easily retrieved and re-filed.

Example of folder labeling:
Box 5 Record Group 9 Executive Committee
Folder 31 Alumni Board Minutes 1999 Jan-May

Step 6: Prepare a finding aid
- The finding aid provides the researcher with information necessary to evaluate and gain access to a group of papers
- It can be distributed so that others learn about the contents of the collection or archives.

The parts of a finding aid:
- An historical or biographical note regarding the organization or individual documented
- An introduction describing the kinds of materials in the collection, the quantity of materials, and the general arrangement
- A folder listing (or sometimes a box or drawer listing) for each series

Putting finding aids on the Internet: nice but not necessary
- Encoded Archival Description (EAD) - a way of coding finding aids that allows for more sophisticated searching.
- Finding aids can also be made as word-processed documents and “saved as” HTML to put on Internet.

Ideal but not necessary: a delivery system that searches throughout all available finding aids
Also good to make a catalog record

Archives Management Part III Preservation
- Physical maintenance of the records
- All metal paper clips, rusting staples, and rubber bands should be removed.
- Documents should be in containers that prevent dust from entering
- Large items should be stored flat.

The ideal storage area for records:
- Amenable to consistent environmental control (temperature and humidity)
- No water pipes running nearby
- Little or no natural light

Why does paper deteriorate?
- Wood pulp = acid content = slow burn
- Any paper manufactured since the mid-19th century -- unless it is of the type designated permanent/durable or acid-free -- has an expected useful life of less than fifty years.

What is the best defense against paper deterioration?
Environmental controls
- A chemical reaction is taking place in acidic paper, and this reaction is accelerated by high temperatures and high humidity
- Ideal temperature: 16-20 degrees C
- Ideal relative humidity level: 40-60%
If ideal conditions cannot be
reached, try to maintain
CONSISTENT conditions

Preservation common sense:
- Some records are valuable as physical artifacts while others are valuable primarily for the information they contain.
- For some deteriorating items, photo-copying them onto acid-free paper and discarding or restricting use of the originals makes more sense than spending money to deacidify, repair, or encapsulate them.

Microfilm still the most stable way to preserve records
. - Optical scanning and digitization are solutions of the future.
- “Latourette Initiative” - program of Yale Divinity School Library to subsidize microfilming of materials.

Repairing materials:
- NEVER use cellophane tape
- Get some basic supplies:
* archival repair tape, e.g. “Filmoplast”
* wipe cloths
* acid free paper

Sources of archival supplies:
- Light Impressions:
- University Products

Special needs for photographs
1) Never label photographs on their reverse with ballpoint pen. The ink may bleed through to the front. Reference numbers on mounts should be written discreetly in light-resistant ink. Reference numbers on the back of photographs that have not been mounted can be written with a soft pencil that leaves a clear mark.
2) If possible, put photographs in chemically stable polyester or paper sleeves (e.g., made of a material such as Mylar, or acid-free paper.) Such sleeves help prevent curling of photographs and reduce physical contact with the photos. It is also possible to label the sleeves with identifying information or to insert a separate written label inside the sleeve.
3) If it is not feasible for you to use sleeves, be sure to store the photographs in such a way that they will not curl over time and will not be subject to excessive handling.

Electronic records:
- The conservative stance for a repository to take regarding electronic records is to require that all records be deposited in hard copy.
- This stance will be increasingly untenable as organizations and individuals wholeheartedly enter the electronic age.
- Even now, there is a danger in requesting hard copy printouts of records to be saved. The extra steps of selecting and printing records to be saved will inevitably limit the number and variety of records saved.

Basic strategies for preserving electronic data:
- Medium refreshing: copying data from one physical carrier to another of the same type, e.g. backing up a hard drive, diskette, or CD ROM.
- Medium conversion: transferring electronic data from one medium to another – this might mean transferring to a non-digital medium.
* High quality acid neutral paper can last a century or longer and archival quality microfilm is projected to last 300 years or more. Paper and microfilm have the additional advantage of requiring no special hardware or software for retrieval or viewing

Format conversion: converting the data format in order to reduce the number of different formats being used in a particular setting, e.g. converting WordPerfect word processing files to a Word format.
Migration: converting the data so that it can operate with different hardware and software than originally intended. This could involve transferring data to a central server or computer housed in the archives.

The most important thing that an archivist can do at this point is to work with those generating the records to raise their consciousness about the problems involved in preserving electronic data. If records are received in electronic format, repositories may need to reformat them at intervals to avoid obsolescent formats and the need for obsolete hardware. A schedule should be put in place, and a particular person made responsible, to intentionally verify at specific intervals that the following types of electronic data are still readable: · Email, Word processing and web documents, Databases.

Disaster preparedness
- A disaster plan in the event of fire or flood should be an integral part of any repository's program.
- It is important to have the plan in written form because of potential chaos and confusion at the height of the emergency
- If there should be water damage, it is best to rescue photographs, microfilm, and any materials with coated (glossy) paper

Archives Management Part IV: Promoting Use

Make your archives a professional operation, but also a place where people feel welcome
- Define your access policy and procedures
- Prepare an appropriate reading area

Spreading the news about your archives :
- Make a repository guide:
* provides an overview of materials available
* Can be printed form or online – preferably both.
* Distribute it at conferences and meetings

Spreading the news (2):
- Write an article for your institution’s newsletter.
- Engage the faculty at your institution. See if they will give the students an assignment that requires use of the archives.

Spreading the news (3):
- Make an exhibit
- Originals should be displayed only in secure area - use reproductions if appropriate
- Lighting should be restrained
- Items should be well-supported
- Choose items with visual appeal, e.g. 3D
- Captions need to be large enough
- A portable exhibit can be brought to various venues.

Other ways to spread the news:
- Publications
- Speaking engagements
- “Marketing”

Digitization can be a way to promote use of the archives
- increases accessibility and visibility (service)
- enhances usefulness: search abilities, linking, navigation, multimedia
- enhances manipulation: annotations

BUT REMEMBER: digitization is NOT the same as conservation / preservation (lack of permanence)
-> microfilm still the standard for preservation
-> electronic formats become obsolete

Considerations if you decide to digitize:
- Is it worth digitizing the materials? -> selection
how unique is the item; value of its content; demand; risks to the material
- Can the material be scanned without damaging it?
avoid improper handling of the materials; avoid rescanning
- Do you have the proper equipment to digitize at high quality?
- Have you taken into account the costs of storage of the files and necessary back-up procedures?

Archives Management: Conclusion

1) Your first task is to convince the leaders of your organization that there are concrete, practical advantages to maintaining an archives program:
-- Maintaining good archival records can help save the time and energy of staff members who need certain information in order to accomplish their duties
. -- Archival records are a good source of material for an organization’s publications. They can make planning of programs and events more efficient.
-- Archives are important for establishing and preserving the identity of our organizations. Organizations need the support of successive generations in order to survive and archives can play an important role in fostering this support.
When financial support for an archives program is lacking, or the leaders of an organization question the need for archives, it is important to remember these very practical advantages that archives have for an organization.
2) Be very intentional about the subject of saving archives. Put specific policies and procedures in place, otherwise, as time goes on, the enthusiasm about keeping archives may diminish and the program will begin to disintegrate.
It is important to have a formal Statement of Goals that has been approved by the highest leaders of the organization.
3) It is very important to have a particular person who is responsible for maintaining the archives in an organization. This person must have the authority to request and receive organizational records on a regular basis to be kept in the archives . Every organization should have someone who is the designated “archivist” or “records manager” or “historian.”
4) The archives should have a designated place
5) The archivist needs to have some training and familiarity with the organization.
6) Begin by making a survey of what types of records are available and where they are currently kept. Decide what types of records the archives should contain. Establish procedures for getting records to the archives.
7) Make accession records and preliminary inventories for all materials received in the archives. Have some means of controlling backlog.
8) Organize the materials according to archival principles.
9) Make finding aids that describe the records in a way that makes them useable.
10) Make a distributable guide or brochure that describes your archives.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions:


Contact Persons *

Mrs. Elizabeth T. Pulanco, Convenor, email:
Mr. Yesan Sellan, Secretary,,

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