Monday, October 26, 2015

Arrangement: Organizing Archival Material

Principles of arrangement
  • Two principles governing archival arrangement and description:
    • Provenance/respect des fonds
      • Who was the original creator?
      • Respecting original order
    • Original order
      • Provenance: The person(s) or office(s) of origin of records, i.e. the person(s), family (families), or corporate body (bodies) that created and/or accumulated and used records in the course of that creator’s activities or functions.
      • Original order: the principle that archival documents should be maintained in the same order or arrangement given to it by the creator so that the relationships among its components and the evidential significance of documents are preserved.
        • Most evident in corporate, institutional, or government records
        • Private manuscripts and paper often show little clearly evident original order, consequently:
          • Original order cannot be as inflexible a rule as provenance
      • Small accessions
        • Accession each new body of records as its own unit
        • Give each new accession a unique accession number
        • Do not incorporate small groups of material or single items into a large “artificial collection”
        • To save space you may store small accessions and individual items together in the same container as long as their accession numbers and physical location are clearly identified on all storage containers and finding aids
      • Artificial collection: a body of archival material deliberately brought together for some reason other than in the process of daily activities. Some collections are based on subject content, geographical information, or type of record.
        • Once removed from original location provenance and original order is lost
        • Treat as a closed group of records and do not add new material to collection
        • Use finding aids to identify contents
  • Archivists recommend working with only one accession at a time so material does not get mixed up
  • Initial arrangement usually occurs at the accession stage
Levels of arrangement
  • Repository: archives itself
  • Fonds/record group (for public or corporate materials)/manuscript group (for personal papers): The whole of the records, regardless of form or medium, automatically and organically created and/or accumulated and used by a particular individual, family, or corporate body in the course of that creator’s activities or functions. Note: The fonds is the highest level of description in a particular repository… A fonds is not equivalent to an accession. A fonds may contain two or more accession units; similarly an accession may contain more than one fonds.
  • Sous fonds/subgroup: A body of related records within a fonds, usually consisting of the records of an important subordinate administrative unit or family unit. Sous fonds may also be established for related bodies of documents within a fonds that can best be defined in terms of chronological, functional, or geographical relationships. Sous fonds may be divided into as many further levels as are necessary to reflect the hierarchical organizational units within the subordinate administrative unit, or that will assist in grouping series in terms of their relationships. Glossary of Archives, Records Management, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Acts
  • Series: Records or groups of records arranged in accordance with a particular filing system or maintained as a unit because of their relationship to one another. Series may be organized by original order, subject, function, or type of material.
    • Series level best illustrates the actual activities of the creator
    • Maintain organization by function whenever possible
    • If no order evident, you must impose one
      • Commonly by type of material
    • Avoid organizing records series into chronological or subject order unless that was the original order
    • Subseries: A group of related material within a series, usually identified by subject, type of material, function, or filing arrangement
      • There can be subseries within series, just as there can be subgroups within record groups
  • File: A group of records organized and kept in a predetermined physical order in a folder
  • Item: The smallest unit of archival material, such as the individual letter, report, photography, or reel of film
  • For examples of levels of arrangement see:
Establishing priorities
  • When arranging large bodies of records consider:
    • Significance of creator in your community or organization
    • Potential use of records
    • Size of the accession
    • Amount of time available to you
    • Amount and importance of other archival work
  • As a general rule for large accessions strive for record group and series level arrangement of all holdings before continuing with file or item level organization
Processing archival material
  • Preliminaries
    • Always work with only one accession at a time
    • Try to identify
      • Any distinct record groups and series
      • A logical and valid original order
      • Any series of filing arrangement
    • Learn as much as possible about the records and their creator before beginning any actual arrangement
  • Physical care
    • Remove paper clips, staples, pins, string, rubber bands, etc.
    • Ensure all material as neat and flat as possible without changing original order
    • Identify items that need special care for later removal
    • Identify media items which will be stored separately, e.g. photo material; film, video, dvd; prints, paintings, drawings; maps, plans; sound recordings; printed materials; artifacts; computer disks/tapes, etc.
  • When finished your first run-through of the material in your accession you should have:
    • Identified whether you’re dealing with one or more fonds
    • Identified the major series of records within the fonds
    • Checked the physical conditions of the records
    • Removed any metal fasteners
    • Dealt with duplicates in accordance with your acquisition policy
    • Disposed of anything clearly not required for retention, e.g. blank sheets of paper or empty envelopes
  • Sorting
    • Sort archival materials into distinct piles according to the plan you have established
    • Remove unwanted material, items needing conservation, and media items with different storage needs
    • Replace all removed items (except items to be discarded, such as doodles or duplicates) with a separation sheet. A separation sheet identifies what material has been removed, why, and where it is presently located
    • Continue to arrange the records until you reach your chosen level of detail, such as series, file, or item
    • Arrange different media items within the record group, according to their physical requirements
    • Keep notes about your work, indicating what organization you have chosen, what level of detail, and what kind of material has been removed. Also keep notes about important subjects, events, or people to include in your description
  • Packing
    • Use appropriate archival quality containers when packing all materials
    • Never pack folders or boxes too full, but never leave them too empty. As a guide, don’t fill folders beyond the pre-marked fold lines, and make sure the box lids will close properly without pressure
    • You will have to lift and move the boxes and folders regularly, if they are too heavy or awkward you might damage the records or hurt yourself
  • Labelling
    • Mark all storage containers with the accession number and the box number
    • Always label each folder and box clearly, numbering each as “file 3” or “file 1 of 4” or “box 6” or “box 4 of 8”, so that losses or gaps will be noticed easily
    • If any materials are restricted, mark the boxes with a large red sticker or tag, to remind you to check the accession record before allowing researchers to use the records
  • Storing
    • Establish a consecutive numbering system
    • Number each shelf or storage space, add each new accession to the next vacant place on the shelf, and record the accession name and number and location number on a location file
      • Do not organize your archival storage area in subject, alphabetic, or chronological order. Every time you receive a new accession, you will have to shift boxes to make space
    • Note location of all records on a location file; keep one copy of this finding aid in the archives’ storage area
    • Keep accurate records of the physical location of all archival material

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bringing materials into your archives: acquiring, appraising and accessioning

Bringing materials into your archives: acquiring, appraising and accessioning by Laura Coles
Chapter 3, pp. 23-29