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Frank Boles: Selecting and Appraising: Summary From NeoArch: http://neoarch.wordpress.com/2006/03/30/selecting-and-appraising-archives-and-manuscripts-book-review/

Frank Boles's Selecting and Appraising Archives and Manuscripts assesses the often troubling and convoluted subject of archival selection. Boles believes that selection is a more accurate term than appraisal because it is more transparent about the fact that (gasp!) archivists sometimes have to determine to throw things away (all of you theologians can think of it as the archival version of passive reprobation.) Boles believes that archivists select because selection is a societal need, and archivists are the best trained professionals for selecting.

Boles surveys the history of theories on selection, and he notes that the waters are now muddied concerning what archivists should do in regard to selection. Several proposals have been offered. The english archivist, Hillary Jenkinson, proposed that archiving was almost purely an administrative activity. In essence, he advised that archivists keep rather than select. T. R. Schellenberg, the former NARA archivist, emphasized selecting materials with reference to secondary users. In other words, Schellenberg seems to have believed in archiving for the purpose of history and culture. Later, Gerald Ham contended that selection involved selecting records that document evidence of the human experience. Most archivists since the 1970s have found some position between Schellenberg and Jenkinson. A practical school developed that was more Schellenbergian. It tried to build a better framework for selection, but it lacked the focus on documenting cultural history. Several other movements and tools (New Paradigm, Macro Appraisal, Functional Analysis, Risk Management, AS 4390) leaned more toward the Jenkensonian model in downplaying cultural history and secondary users because their proponents believed that archives are just records. Other archivists have countered that some records (ie. Constitution, Declaration of Independence) have symbolic value and are culturally important.

Boles proposes several broad principles for selection that can apply, in some measure, to any archives. First, archivists may select for a variety of goals as befits the institution. Second, selection can occur at any time. An archivist can participate in the creation of records, or save them from being destroyed. Finally, both the context (ie. Jenkinson) and content (ie. Schellenberg) of records matter. The purposes of the institution or repository will determine how to balance these factors.

Boles contends that selection should be based on an archives's mission. He notes that there are basically two types of repositories, each of which has different missions. Institutional archives exist to document the life and work of an institution. Collecting repository documents records dealing within a certain predefined subject area. Often, especially in educational settings, these two functions are combined. Both types of institutions often have broad mandates, and both should have collecting policies that govern the types of records they collect. Boles discusses the ways that records management, records schedules, records continuums, and functional analysis apply to archives and noted that strengths and weaknesses of each.

Boles argues that the taxonomy for selection on the micro-appraisal level falls into three broad categories: value of information, cost, and political implications. Boles fully describes many factors involved in assessing each of these categories. Boles describes a six step model for selection that included defining goals and understanding the scope of the repository's collections; determining the types of records that are "out there"; prioritizing materials to acquire; defining the functions and documentary levels to acquire; selecting records based upon the above steps; periodic updating of the selection model (at least every five years). Finally, Boles offers arguments for why non-textual formats should be given equal consideration in selection despite their attendant difficulties.

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