Research: A Manual For Small Archives

Last Monday I found out that the CollectiveAccess setup package will be sent to the office shortly by a very helpful individual sitting behind the virtual CollectiveAccess Help Desk. While my supervisor sets up the software, I will continue to focus on researching archival standards and procedures. According to my work plan, my allotted hours for this research are almost up, so it is a good thing I got as far as I did on Monday.

A Manual for Small Archives has proved to be an invaluable introduction to the world of archiving, to standards and procedures, to arrangement and description, and to the overall picture of archiving in a small archives.

This week, I read about different levels of arrangement, principles of arrangement, and the purposes and principles of description. I also began a brief introduction to RAD.

Principles of arrangement:

1. Original Order (“the order/organization in which documents were created and/or stored by the creator or office of origin”)

2. Provenance (respect des fonds).

3. Accession of each new body of records as one unit, now matter how many or few records are contained in that body.

4. Avoid artificial collections where possible. Due to the ad hoc nature of collection and organization in the archives up to this point, artificial collections are likely to be prominent in the organization of this repository.

Levels of arrangement:

The levels that we are most likely to use in this situation are the repository level, record group, or fonds level, and series level. There may be occasion to describe the arrangement at the file level, but the focus of this project, with its limited time frame, will be the record group level.

About description:

I learned that description establishes intellectual control over the archival holdings, through the preparation of finding aids such as inventories and indexes.

Principles of description:

1. Principle of provenance – arrangement and description should follow that of the records creator. This means that the meaning and significance of each archival fonds is directly related to the records creator, and that the context of the records is maintained.

2. Sanctity of original order – maintain the order and organization established by the records creator; arrangement must reflect the activities and functions of the records creator.

3. Arrangement determines description – description mirrors arrangement in a manner that accurately represents or explains it. Once the original order is identified, the archivist must analyze the relationship of the records to the activities and functions of the records creator.

NB: Inadequacies in the original order should be recorded in the scope and content area of the description. Given the high percentage of artificial collections in this repository, I imagine this will be important later on in the project.

4. Description proceeds from the general to the specific – which is self-explanatory.

RAD (Rules of Archival Description):

From the Manual, I learned that these rules really are similar to the AACR2 rules I learned in my Introduction to Bibliographic Control course last year.

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