Intro: "Selecting" not appraising. Use an active verb, transparent term (we're going to throw some of these things away). Be honest with the public @ what we are doing-- no Double Fold.
Ch 1: Why Archivists Select - As late as 1945, archivists would not admit that they determined what was "archival." Jenkinson and the archivist as "keeper" of the archives. Preserved records, not destroy or determine what should be destroyed. Preserve & protect from the records from the creator. Natural flow of materials to the archives; archivist should not stand in the way of this natural flow. "Moral defense of archives." Records were hand-copied by clerks. - Decades later, there are so many records we can't keep it all. Mass production & reproduction. Typewriter gave way to the computer. Little distinction between copy & original. Computers = increased productivity, electronic networks increased ease of distribution. Email attachment challenged the photocopy. -Records creators proved generally uninterested in archival records and can only see their function at an administrative level. One of four solutions: throw it all out, buy more filing cabinets, hire a records manager, dump it all in the archives. Creators shape record collections based on immediate needs; archivists are trained to determine what recorded information will best serve society in the future. - The NARA archivists broke this cycle: they called for archivists to adopt new responsibilities. Through education, archivists could learn what to keep and what to destroy; professional detachment; professional methodologies. "Pragmatism, not theory, set American archivists on the path of selection." The transition was not easy; many saw Schellenberg & NARA as rogue operation. Schellenberg called Jenkinson "the old fossil." - Schellenberg missed the ideological appeal of Jenkinson's keeper mentality; part of how archivists defined themselves, noble endeavor of preservation. Gerald Ham, father of modern thoughts on selection, said that "Archives are a hallmark of a civilized society." What does this say for those who cart the records to the loading dock to find the dumpster? - As the paper increased, those who were unhappy with the pragmatism of Schellenberg offered additional reasons for selection: intellectual control of records and access by users. Even if we saved everything, we could never arrange and describe everything. The only logical step was to stop bringing so much in. The corollary argument is: even if we did have the time to process/describe, who would have the time to use it? - To be clear: the "glut" of records is from the government, not many other communities. ie non-English/non-native communities, secret organizations. - Why do archivists select? they are the best trained professionals to do so, selection is a societal requirement. Given the state of resource allocation, saving everything is not a legitimate option, it is idiocy (G Ham). - Not all records are important. Bureaucracy means "sharing," which translates to cc-ing everyone = too much trivial and redundant information. - Archivists and archival selection is not perfect, but training and professional background makes us best for the job.
Ch 2: Muddied Waters and Conflicting Currents: An Overview of Appraisal Thought Schellenberg - says selection was a form of crisis management at NARA. - as long as creator was using the document (legal, fiscal, administrative value), it retained it's primary value and could not be archival. when the creator was finished with the document, the archivist made a selection decision based on secondary value (evidential, informational). Schellenberg's "evidence" is different from legal = "referred to the kind of document a historian would need to write an administrative history of an agency rather than what a lawyer might seek to defend the agency against legal action." - trusted archivist/historian to determine what "the good stuff" was, what they would want when doing research. Open to individual interpretation. - He developed his criteria without consulting another theoretical framework, as if nothing else had been written. He rewrote the rules regarding what was archival and defined selection criteria based on his pragmatic response to the vast number of records @ NARA. - Emphasis on secondary user.
- European archives existed to serve the government officials. Purely administrative archives = European theory. - kept, did not select. Wanted to remove personal judgment. If selection was necessary, responsibility was with the creator. Records served creators; if others found use in them, it was great but not of primary importance.
- Jenkinson, Schellenberg, and the American Archival Environment to 1970
- American experience of archives = Schellenberg - "For the most part, archival collections in the United States began life as collections of material, often personal papers, consciously saved or gathered for historical purposes." Americans documented their experimental government and the "taming" of the wilderness, sense of uniqueness. - Their goal was to document their accomplishments, not create an evidence trail for the government. Good at documenting "dead white men" history. By failing to set up a government archives, they set the precedent to document history, rather than the government's administrative actions. - Schellenberg's selection theories were rooted in the core of the American documentary experience. By the 1970s, Schellenberg's theories prevailed of Jenkinson's. Anyone who argued otherwise did so under the philosophy that there were 3 nonexclusive basic functions of archives: administrative, legal, and historical. Big tent philosophy allowed some archivists to use Schellenberg's historical focus, while also allowing dissidents like Norton to use Jenkinson's ideas of what should be found in an archive. - 1977 Maynard Brichford = first appraisal manual, enriched and expanded Schellenberg's thoughts, notably that selection recommendations should be based on material types (ie minutes v. cancelled checks).
- A New Era in Selection: F. Gerald Ham
- In SAA presidential address, asked archivists to create "a representative record of human experience." Article written by German Hans Booms = same sentiment = called for a series of plans that would collectively document the "total societal process."
- New Authors, Differing Ideas
- Ham threw the tidy Schellenberg world into chaos, add to his challenge the increasingly international view that archivists had. The battle over selection waged in journals! No consensus emerged, but there was a burst of creativity that enriched and deepened archivists' views of selection. - One group wanted to "fix" the problems of Schellenberg, the other wanted to scrap it & start over.
- The Practical School Seeks a Better Mousetrap
- One pragmatic group wanted to build a better selection framework, rooted in Schellenberg. They rejected the idea that the Schellenberg framework, good training, and good judgment was all that was needed for good selection. These folks looked to Maynard Brichford and began to tinker with his ideas. - Boles & Julia Marks Young began work: "wiring diagrams" = complex series of groupings = no need to use all the decision points all the time. They dealt with the larger archival mission & purpose, rejected Ham's call for a broad & cohesive documentation of society. Influenced by "big tent" = institutions established archives for many purposed, and that selection should allow for diverse acquisition mandates & institutional settings. Translation: do your own thing. Subsequently integrated into the more comprehensive framework created by Mark Greene & Todd Daniels-Howell.
- Documentation Strategy
- The failure to coordinate interinstitutional activities among archival institutions and Ham’s call to document society (and create a representative record of human experience) led to the development of “documentation strategy.” No single institution could document society alone; the only way archivists could meet the challenge was to combine resources to document an ongoing issue, activity, function, or subject. - Had to involve records creators and users. Discussion about what the nature of the archival record should be. Discuss existing & ideal archival information for any given topic. Once the documentary needs were established, the committee would develop a plan for creating and depositing the necessary records in a group of cooperating archives. Plans were meant to be dynamic, reviewed & revised regularly. - Discussion quickly centered on workability rather than intellectual appeal. While desirable in many ways, practically it was unobtainable.
- The New Paradigm
- Government archivists faced increase in electronic records, began to reconsider selection strategies. - David Bearman and the New Paradigm: while it is important to document society, if selection meant examining each record, there is no feasible way we can accomplish the task set forth by Ham. Bearman suggested archivists focus on principle of provenance; in this case, provenance was not about the records themselves, but about the records functions. Wanted to link this notion of provenance to principles of risk management and a concern for creating records of organizational accountability. You didn’t even have to look at the records! In the end, this was simply an updated version of Jenkinson’s definition of the archival mission (while rejecting his refusal to select). Archives served the administrative needs of the records creator; abandoned Ham’s call for broad social role of archives. - These archivists were dubbed “neo-Jenkinsonians” and began to call for a “New Paradigm” in how we think about selection and the role of the archivist. “This change [in appraising electronic records] is not a refinement or slight tinkering to accommodate new realities, but a reorientation in what archivists do—a new archival paradigm.”
- The New Paradigm and the Universal Theory of Archives
- Many American archivists rejected this because anything old went to archives and there was no need to split hairs over what was really archival. - European theory/ definitions of archives narrowed the records universe of potential archival interest, which meant a greater likelihood of successfully meeting the challenges posed by Bearman through a redefinition of the “battlefield.” Luciana Duranti and Richard Cox championed redefinition of the archival mission: it is about administrative accountability, not the preservation of cultural heritage [removed cultural considerations from selection]. - Duranti said that archival selection was about identifying records that documented the responsibilities and actions of the creator (usually gov official) and that were embedded in the documents what were of evidential value in the legal sense of the word. For Duranti, archives were all of the same type, regardless of where they were located geographically or culturally; this definition of archives was a universal constant, like gravity and physics. - Cox saw this as a re-discovery of the fundamental mission of the archival profession to maintain the essential evidence of organizations, rather than to document culture. - Both agreed that Schellenberg’s “informational” concerns were important and should be the addressed by information professionals [just not archivists]: in Europe = documentalists, in America = librarians or manuscript curators. They both made this very clear: “Archivists were concerned exclusively with evidentiary records, whereas librarians and manuscript curators worked to meet the informational concerns of various ‘research communities.’” - Recognizing that American archivists had a long tradition of gathering info for researchers & might resist a model that completely abandoned the needs of user communities, Cox tried to soften the approach by saying that there is so much rich/deep evidence that needs to be maintained that all user needs will be met.
- The New Paradigm: Rejecting Schellenberg’s Concept of When a Record Becomes Archival.
- Schellenberg = lifecycle of a record = records mature through a lifecycle with different managers involved in the record’s care at different points in the cycle. Management began with creator in first few years of “active” use period, moved to records manager when they became “inactive,” but might still be of some use. Archivists came in at the end to determine lnog-term archival value. - Problem = management of electronic records. Instability, rapidly evolving hardware/software, storage problems, delete button. Can’t stand around waiting for the life cycle to end. Continuum proponents said archivists should be there at the point of creation, direct involvement with all groups interested in the records.
- Macro-Appraisal: The Canadian Link to the New Paradigm
- Canadians = liked Ham, attempted to accept some elements of the New Paradigm and reject others. Bearman’s ideas of narrowly defined administrative archives fell on deaf ears; his ideas of functionality were important to the development of macro-appraisal. - Terry Cook: agreed that records were important in documenting the history of Canada, but also painfully aware of the quantity of records being produced by the government. Led him to work on developing Bearman’s suggestion to use functionality as a selection tool = macro-appraisal. Look at the creator: function and structure of creator. Select records that showed how function & structure interacted with clients [in this case Canadian residents]. Who made the records and for what purpose.
- Functional Analysis
- Cook’s functional analysis caught on with archivists. - Context is more important than content. Context understood through functional analysis more quickly than content from an actual examination of the records. “Analyzing an organization from the top down through the lens of functionality appeared quicker and easier than starting at the bottom by analyzing the content of records as Schellenberg had proposed.” - Functional analysis considered the organization to be a biological entity, with each part serving a useful function. By understanding, documenting, and determining core functions, archivist could decide what documentation was needed, look at these key functional parts, and select based on that.
- Risk Management
- Functional analysis rests on the preservation of “core functions,” but what is a core function? - Risk management: What would happen if those records were not there? What would the consequences be? Calls for judgment, but is very different from Schellenberg’s evidential & informational values; firmly rooted in the Jenkinsonian concept of archives in service of administration. - National Archives of Australia: 1996 = fundamentally reconfigured its operations with Australian Standard for Records Management AS 4390. Used functional analysis and the records-continuum concept to manage evidential concerns. AS 4390 = widely accepted and may become international standard. Accepts Jenkinsonian definition of a record as an official documents recording a transaction, agree that archivist’s responsibility is to preserve evidential records of accountability, use functional analysis to analyze record systems [especially e-records], incorporate risk management.
- The Symbolic Value of Documentation
- James O’Toole article: symbolic value of documentation, nonutilitarian uses of documents. I.e. diplomas may not have a place in the records universe, but they document a moment in time symbolically, much more than a transcript would. - Intrinsic value: public records and symbolic baggage, meaning beyond legal importance: i.e. the Doomsday book, Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the U.S. - Archives as a cultural entity.
- Responses to the Concept of a Universal Archival Mission
- Boles and Mark Greene propose that “archives are socially constructed institutions that accomplish whatever tasks a particular society assigns to them rather than springing from a single, universal objective.” Translation: everyone could be “right,” because there is no universal archival mission. - Debate: those from the Schellenberg school say that archives support a cultural agenda, used by nonadministrative researchers; New Paradigm says archives exists to support institutional accountability. - Greene: macro-appraisal is based on a belief that evidence of the functioning of government should be preserved, regardless of whether or not anyone ever uses it. He sees this need to document administrative activity as meaningless and counterproductive. For Greene, “the proper application of appraisal criteria can come only by considering the intersection of use, repository mission, and repository resources.”
- The Question of Content versus Context
- What is the proper role of context in selection? New Paradigm authors focus selection criteria primarily on the context through which the record was created. Cultural school, while not denying that context matters, argues at length about the importance of content and holds that content makes documents more likely to be used [which is the most critical consideration]. - Linda Henry: an archives that concentrates purely on evidence will document little more than the “footprints of bureaucrats.” She says New Paradigm might work, but it isn’t anything new or interesting; it’s been said before. Bauer advised archivists be there at the point of creation in 1940, and Schellenberg called on archivists to consider “substantive” and “facilitative” functions in selecting records. For her, it lacks a cultural foundation. - Greene & Boles go one step further, saying that it has misstated the relationship between context & content, failing to realize that context is merely a tool used for archivists and researchers to locate significant content. While the context of the creation is important, the record is merely a container that holds information, which is what really matters. - Responses to the Record Continuum and Functional Analysis: Bruce Bruemmer says to use functional analysis with moderation, you can overanalyze and end up with little documentation. - International Reaction to the New Paradigm: Many wonder if this focus on accountability and functionality [the record-keeping paradigm] has made us forget the archives as a locus of memory, story, heritage. [Verne Harris, Nat. Arch. of South Africa] [Robert Warner, former Arch of US] - Terry Cook has tried to stake out a middle ground with macro-appraisal. Calls for preservation of “marginalized groups.” Sees a place where New Paradigm and cultural school’s thoughts are related: “Without reliable evidence set in context… memory becomes counterfeit, or at least is transformed into forgery, manipulation, or imagination. Without the influence of and need for memory, evidence is useless and unused.”
- Writing a Selection Manual in an Age of Uncertainty
- Archivists may select records for a variety of goals. The purpose of archives is whatever a particular society or institution wishes rather than the mandate of a universal principle. - When to select? Selection can occur before a record is created, at the moment before it is consigned to a dumpster, or at any point in between. The moment of selection is intimately linked to the mission of the archives, and that mission may include “interfering” in the creation process itself or waiting until the user is finished with the record. - Context and content both matter. As in selection, the objective of the archives determines the balance between the two.
Chapter 3: The Big Picture: Mission Statements, Records Management, and Collection Development Policies - All Selection begins by understanding the archival institution’s documentary goals. Ask: why does archives exist? What purpose does it serve?
- Continuum of Archival Missions
- Institutional Archives: exist to document the organization that created them. Gov archives, college and university archives, religious bodies, nonprofits. Distinguishing feature: documentary focus is inward, document the institution itself. Government archives usually established as the result of a law or charter (“enabling legislation”). Other types of institutional archives = founding documents originating from senior governing authority. Formal documents that create archival institutions usually only give a broad indication of what should be placed in the archives. - Collecting Repositories: founded to document a collecting theme, exist to preserve information about an activity external to the organization. No formal responsibility for documenting own organization, look outward & seek material from other documentary universe. “Other” usually defined as falling into 1 of 4 categories: geography; subject; specific individual, group, event, or era; media.
- Theme-oriented archives = broad collecting mandates.
- Combine institutional and collecting missions. - In Defense of Vagueness: Broadly drafted collecting mandates are not meaningless; they give a general direction for archival selection and exclude landscapes even broader than those they include. Reference point for selection. Broad allows for flexibility, while narrow reduces archivist’s job to that of a file clerk. Redefining the Mandate - Typically, institutional archives have used records-management programs to focus their acquisition programs, while noninsitutional archives have used collecting policy. - Records Management: born in 1940s, part of NARA, key concept is life cycle of records: creation, active use by those who created the record, semi-active or inactive storage, final disposition. - Creation: to serve administrative purpose, exact nature of transaction is not critical, “forms management” (at higher levels, forms as a means of records management/control = less successful). - Active Use: importance to and use by creator or person for whom it was created. - Semiactive Use: aka the storage phase, moved to less costly venues, electronic records taken off system’s active memory and stored off-line on data tapes. No longer immediately available, but may be retrieved swiftly. - Final Disposition: the final decision about what to do with these records. For Schellenberg this is the point in the life cycle when archivists look, select, and then dispose of documents. Records schedule = tool used to direct a record through its life cycle.
- Limits of Records Management in Selection
- RM tends to be driven by organizational structure and works through official departments. Assume a relatively stable bureaucratic structure that creates relatively standard information. In reality, org structure is a moving target. - Focus of records manager typically differs from that of archivist. RM’s seek out cost savings, quick disposition of 95-98% (archivists focus on the 2-5%). RM’s focus on the big record groups. - Most RM systems rely on the belief that the good stuff will float to the top, up the chain of command. Records Continuum - In the past few years, “life cycle” has been supplemented and supplanted by the “records continuum.” (discussed in ch 2, Australians & e-records) Archivists have asked to sit at the table to discuss e-records issues/management/concerns about creation. - Criticism of the continuum process: puts trust in the power of technology to regularize and systematize office procedure (translation: computer system can’t be put on autopilot and expected to perform automatically, humans are still involved), the belief that all archival records can be identified at birth tends to be strongly linked to the philosophical belief that archives are solely administrative tools (translation: you never know what will happen and what will become important as a result of future events, ie Nixon tapes).
- Functional Analysis
- Often used in conjunction with records continuum, but looks at the institution the archives has been created to document (rather than the records) and asks what the institution does. Prioritize within an institution, but also look beyond the formal organizational charts to ask questions about what offices are doing, goals are, actions should be documented. Frees the discussion of documents from administrative structure. - Two ways of implementation: functional outcomes of an organization (Helen Willa Samuels), internal operation of organization without particular regard for the outcome (Terry Cook). Joan Krizak differs from Samuels & Cook: looking at the consequences of the organization’s functions and the internal operations are not mutually exclusive: analyze the institution and functions, select the most important and select from most important, determine at which level each function will be documented with an eye toward the noninstitutional universe. - Applying functional analysis: can be shaped by particular institution, don’t assume it will work the same way under all circumstances, adopt to meet needs of institution. Starting point is organization itself, not the records. Compare archives goals with organizational goals to determine importance of records, where those records will be found, and what the actual resources are (prioritize).
- Collection Policy
- Records management only works in certain types of repositories, not work as well in theme-based repository. Theme-based = use a collecting policy as a plan. - Despite evidence, many archivists in subject-based repositories hesitate to draft collecting policies. Why not? Uncertainty inherent in collecting, ambiguous documentary universe. Link to “keeper” mentality of Jenkinson = lessened the urge to plan, uncertain future means you should collect everything in case it is the last thing. Neither operating a vacuum cleaner, nor cloaking oneself in the role of cultural protector is a useful reaction to uncertainty; instead, a well-focused collecting policy will result in a body of complementary, interrelated collections that may become a cultural treasure and may actually make the archivist the “hero” who saved history from being lost. Collection policy allows you to determine what to collect, but also allows you to refuse collections and justify controversial decisions. - Developing the policy: there is no single way to do this. Criteria: institutional statement/purpose, types of programs supported by collection, clientele served, resources available to archives, external environment. - Institutional statement of purpose: starting point must be with the goals/objectives of the parent organization. - Types of programs: based on actual clientele of archives and their research interests. Users: different user communities and different users require different kinds of collecting. The archivist’s art is to generalize the often narrow interests of the individual and use his or her insights to inform the archivist’s broader collecting perspective. - Resources: collecting policies should be reasonable given resources: can you identify materials and transport them to the archive, do you have enough space, do you have a sufficiently robust technological infrastructure to support format of materials, do you have sufficient staff to process/describe materials? - External Environment: is another repository already collecting in this area? Cooperative agreements, formally or informal establishment.
Chapter 4: Mucking about in the Records: Making Selection Decisions on the Ground - Micro-appraisal: the grubby reality of records as they exist or are mandated to exist, rather than the abstract world of analysis and desirable information. - Selection is linked to criteria and approaches linked to a taxonomy of “desirable” record features.
- A Justification of Traditional Taxonomies
- Criticism = leading culprits in archivists’ tendency to select poorly, narrow focus, focus on the record-keepers rather than record-makers (with whom we should be engaging broader discussions about functions/structure of records), too many records for the bottom-up approach of taxonomy to work. - One must distinguish the tool from the tool user. - Record creators aren’t always enthusiastic about talking with archivists @ their records; record-keepers are. - There is a great deal of material to select from and the older taxonomic methods did not display alacrity in dealing with larger quantities of material. Newer methods aren’t perfect, but in many cases = best criteria we have. - A Contemporary Micro-Appraisal Taxonomy: Derived from the “old” school. Complex in its desire for completeness.
- Micro-Appraisal Taxonomy: Basic Organizational Structure
- Divide selection into 3 broad categories: value of information, cost of retaining and making usable the recording media, political implications. - Value of information: consider four broad elements of the type of documentation sought by the archives: functional characteristics, content, relationship to other documents, use. o Functional characteristics: similar strategies to those involved in functional analysis, linked to Schellenberg’s evidential value. Identify the administrative “paper trail” essential for accountability and administrative documentation. Three elements: unit functions/activities (determine which office does what), original record purpose (why was the record made in the first place & what was its role), position in organization (partly linked to function, political considerations). o Content: for many archival missions, particularly those related to preserving cultural information as opposed to maintaining accountability, content is the critical element that will determine the selection decision. Most often evaluated in conjunction with functional characteristics. Hinges on five elements: significance of topic (link to archives’ mission, interest), time span (records should match time of event), completeness, credibility (paper is generally accepted as credible, e-records = more complex, need for more research, questions of authenticity), creator’s relationship to topic. o Relationship to other documents: documents relate to other documents through a complex web of relationships, both physical and intellectual. Physical qualities that impact selection decision: scarcity, organization, original/preferred copy, media. Intellectual considerations: intellectual duplication within records and archives inside and outside archives. o Use: there is no sense in saving something if no one wants to use it or can’t use it. Criteria associated with use: enduring legal value & administrative value (both = fundamental criteria proposed by New Paradigm scholarship, used to hold an institution accountable for its actions, destruction of records), current research clientele & potential clientele. Potential limitations: illegibility; understandability; use restrictions imposed by law, contract, or custom. - Cost: balance desire to gather against cost to gather, preserve, and make accessible. Costs are both actual and implied. Opportunity costs speak to the consequences on future acquisitions of accepting one set of records; if you accept one collection, will it preclude you from accepting another? Actual costs are easier to measure; incurred during acquisition, processing, reference, preservation, and storage. Acquisition: purchase costs and transfer costs. Processing costs are flexible; archives don’t have a standard level for processing with which to conform, so unlike library cataloging, there isn’t a set amount of time it takes to process a collection. Processing is also done by a variety of people, with varying levels of experience and time expended. Must ask if this can be done in a “reasonable” amount of time, this term varies from institution to institution. Reference: despite rhetoric, archivists prioritize users. At a minimum, it involves retrieving records and can involve substantial amounts of work. Preservation: unless issues are immediate and pressing, archivists don’t think much about this when selecting; works reasonably well with paper, but not as well with fragile e-media (migration). - Political Implications: Few archivists forgive or forget the intrusion of outsiders into the selection process. Political accessions can serve the archivist’s purpose (i.e. if you take inferior material now, you might get the good stuff later). May involve a financial contribution. Selection policies are part of a broader universe of institutional goals; decisions do not exist in a vacuum so be realistic about longer term impacts. Don’t argue blindly for the selection policy; rather, participate in a sensible discussion that weighs benefits vs. harms.
Chapter 5: Putting the Pieces Together: A Selection Model - Art or Science? Schooling and disciplined process combined with experience and innate ability. Selection is 2% inspiration, 98% perspiration.
- Basic Outline of Process
- Define current goals of the archives and understand how past decisions have shaped the existing collection. Archivist may have little to do with the archives’ or organizational mission. Collection analysis: make a list. Phase 1 = Count collections: traditional “catalogued units” count (how many collections do we have?) & identify where the fit into the list, demographic info count (size of collection, date span, date accessioned. Phase 2 = qualitative analysis = “raw numbers” (does anyone use it, is collection substantial). Analysis of the past can lead to maintaining collection priorities of the past, not changing to meet new needs. - Determine the documentary evidence: what is out there for us to collect? How to find out: research and consultation. For the records archivist, it can be achieved by looking within the walls of the institution. For collecting archivist: learn what is in the subject universe (consult sources, do research, personal contact & connections (consultation, talk to people, not conventional research). Consultation also works for records archivists. Use the knowledge of the creator, caretakers, and users to learn about the materials, other materials. Never pass up the chance to talk with the sr. secretary. Users have a sense of how the materials might be/ can be used and whether their current state is useful. - Prioritize: archivists frequently refuse to take this step, officially. In reality, we prioritize all the time (implicit priorities). No single method exists to consciously prioritize archival-selection objectives; however, you can begin by prioritizing the categories created for collection analysis. “First pass” to create priorities for pre-established categories, further subdivide those topics with highest priorities to create a more detailed set of plans. Use Helen Samuels 7 functional characteristics: conferring credentials, promoting culture, conveying knowledge, fostering socialization, conducting research, providing public service, and sustaining the institution. - Define desired functions and documentary levels: levels determined by quantity of records that would be accepted, what types of records would be sought, and how active the staff would be in finding these records. Include “do not collect.” The quantity and level of documentation accepted from readily offered collections can vary, based on how closely the materials document areas of prioritized concern. - Select records: graphical presentations, rather than words, can help when the box is actually open & paper is actually on the table. This stage in selection is so institution specific that it is difficult to offer broad generalities. Art of selection. Micro-appraisal/ micro-selection. Ask questions such as: does the material fit in the institutional mandate/collecting policy? Is the material a priority? What level of documentation is appropriate? Match key criteria with records. Documenting the selection decision is an important action that all archivists who make these decisions should implement. - Periodically update: review & revise as needed. Brief annual review, in-depth 5 year study.
- Thoughts on the Topic of Reappraisal
- If the collection policy is evolving, what happens to the materials brought in under older guidelines? - Historically, what was brought into the archives stayed, no matter what changed in collecting scope/priorities. Archivist as keeper. - In the 1980s, Leonard Rapport challenged this notion. If done cautiously, deaccessioning is a legitimate archival activity. Keep these things in mind: reappraisal is not a crisis management tool, the institutional may encounter controversy over decisions, should take place within regular policy framework, have a written statement documenting accessioning AND deaccessioning decision-making considerations, make sure it’s legal (not violating deed of gift, not violating public records laws), explore options for deaccessioning other than destruction, tell people/colleagues what you are deaccessioning (someone else might want it), may have financial value if sold. - Be bold when selecting records for the archives, but don’t lose sleep over the results of their boldness.
Chapter 6: All Media Are Created Equal and with the Right to be Archived: Media & Selection Endless Possibilities but Few Realities: Listing current and historical media and matching them to current and historical recording techniques would create a very complex matrix of possibilities. Most of the times, contemporary archivists encounter one of four situations: paper-textual records, nondigitized paper/plastic-based visual records, nondigitized plastic-based aural records, digitized plastic-based records (can include text, sound, or visual information).
- The Equality of all Media
- All combinations of media and recording techniques are equal as archival media. Historically, archivists have not acknowledged equity in recording techniques or media. Focus has been on paper, textual records. - Nontextual or non-paper-based records: focus on problems, not promise. Discussion centered on need for playback mechanisms to use media undecipherable by the human eye, short life span of media (vs. ink on paper), issues of frequent migration to preserve information and the differences between text-based and visual documentation. - The rapid computerization of all sectors of society shook this: now paper is the odd format. The new archival cosmos is built on 3 observations: all media and all recording techniques have th possibility of preserving archival information, all media and all tools have costs associated with preserving them in their original form and maintaining their original type of access but costs will vary by medium and tool, all media and tools fail (albeit at different rates) so some information must be migrated sooner than other information if it is going to be preserved. - All archives cost money.
- Ending the Ghettoization of Nontextual or Non-paper-based Records
- The selection processes outlined in this manual should apply to all media. - Medium-based distinction within selection exists, and archivists should consider 4 factors: unique media recording capabilities or unique ability to manipulate recorded data, the tech required to use medium, life span, migration strategies for medium failure or technological obsolescence. - Paper: versatile and long-lived, easy information recording, readable with human eye, slow deterioration, migration strategies (photocopying, microfilming) are well understood. Shortcomings: lack of manipulability. - Digitized information: Manipulability (blessing and curse) and ease of distribution, an e-document frees information from a format fixed by the medium into a group of discreet, easily separable data elements (think personal calendar, paper v. electronic), practical life span is relatively short, migration strategies are still expensive and not always successful, format of information display may change (even if content doesn’t, can we “see” it as creator did), migration may enhance data’s value (ie compilation may be worth more than discrete pieces), technical considerations (ie networks, programs). - Audio: both digital and analog, variety of playback mechanisms. Nondigital audio = difficult to manipulate. All require playback equipment, commercial vs. noncommercial considerations (can you afford to keep the recording if it requires a special commercial playback device). Life span varies by audio format. Migrating analog usually involves a loss of quality. Save analog migration source and digital form. - Visual Images: differ fundamentally from text, most other selection decisions are based on words, but because visual records do not employ words, many prior discussions marginalize them as evidence. Historically marginalized as “illustrations.” Artistic merit does matter, think of it as “visual grammar.”
Appendix 2: Mathematical Sampling in Selection Sampling is Intrinsic to All Selection - All archival selection is a form of sampling = qualitative - Reasons to use statistical sampling: when you needs to document the who or statistical what, not the whys of the past. Raw data. - Sampling projects begin with these questions: what do you hope to accomplish by sampling, how accurate doe the sample need to be, for which variables do you wish to create statistically valid samples. - What to document? - Level of accuracy: all samples contain errors, so you have to decide what an acceptable level is. - Data elements to be preserved: Subsamples. How adequately will the subpopulations be represented. You can oversample as well. Drawing a Sample - Random Sampling: in a truly random sample, data is assigned a number. Files are pulled together. Time consuming to enter this info into a program: slow and tedious business. - Systematic Sampling: select every “nth” file, theory = no bias or statistical prejudice. Can be a hidden bias (financial and student records are culprits here)