Archival Mission and Practice How Does the Essay

Download this Essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Essay:

Archival Mission and Practice

How does the primary mission of the archives (institutional vs. collecting) affect archival practice (acquisitions, processing, preservation, reference, etc.)?

Historical organizational records often have continuing value to an organization. They may provide evidence of an organization's existence, practice, operations, and day-to-day functions (Fruscian, 2011). One of the key elements in establishing a successful archive is to define its mission or purpose. An archive's mission is often impacted by institutional variations; however, in general the goal is to collect, evaluate, describe, and offer historical records of value to an institution (Cross, 1997). The core elements of the mission include what the organization decides to collect and a definition of the audience the organization serves (Cox, 1998). Archives make legal, fiscal, administrative and proprietary records accessible and help preserve that data which has operational significance to the institution (Maher, 1992). Members of the organization and the larger community are afforded a historical education through comprehensive and thorough archival collections.

There is a great deal of work that goes into the creation and maintenance of a successful archive. It is often best have the over-arching mission approved and documented, as well as taking the necessary steps to secure a dedicated and official location to house the archive (Cox, 1998). A full-time, permanent staffer should be appointed to oversee policies and procedures compliance, preserve the integrity of information, oversee security, grant and/or limit access to select members, and verify the efficacy of manuscripts and historical data (Maher, 1992). Most archivists have graduate level education and extensive experience in erecting the proper environmental controls regarding collection space and access to information.

Collecting records is useless unless they have a purpose and are actually utilized. Preserving an organization's history can sometimes result in the writing of studies targeted directly to specific constituencies. An example may be a college's historical information aimed at alumni to help stimulate their loyalty and financial support (Fruscian, 2012). These kinds of studies tend to concentrate on the growth of an organization and focus on such events as the founding of the school or select departments, milestones and accolades, key research, societal and community-oriented contributions and growth and expansion (Maher, 1992). The raw material may include correspondence, photos, journals, organizational publications, minutes of meetings, surveys, interviews, and the like.

Archives also have great potential for comparative studies (Cross, 1997). For example, how does a particular institution adjust or amend policies and approaches working with newer, more diverse populations or when changing an institutional mission or focus from one area to another with the same population? By examining historical records, an organization can gain a better understanding of itself and its own evolution, and thus make more informed decisions regarding its future. Archives are retained for their long-term, if not permanent, value.

In general, archives base their mission upon intended goals, espoused values and services they hope to provide, and their desire to increase general awareness about the mission and operations of an organization as a whole (Fruscian, 2012). The question becomes, once the direction and mission for the archive has been solidified, how does that mission statement impact day-to-day practice? This paper explores several common practices that are always guided by mission: appraisal, arrangement, description, preservation, and use.

Appraisal is the process by which an organization or archivist will determine the ultimate value of documents and whether or not they warrant inclusion in the archive or destroying (Maher, 2012). Not every document, manuscript, photo, file, or record requires preserving. Doing so often muddles an archive and makes it much more difficult to navigate. It is better to create specific benchmarks or standards by which archival candidates are measured (i.e., attributes of the documentation, age, condition, content, current applicability or potential need for it at a later date, storage environment requirements, etc.). The "value" of a document may be financial, legal, administrative, or simply research-oriented (Cross, 1997). Often consideration is also given to uses that a record may be able to satisfy beyond its originally intended purpose (Maher, 1992). The archivist must often rely on skill, experience and instinct to make such determinations, as well as rely on feedback from others within the organization. The practice of appraisal is ultimately a function of how well a record realizes its purpose, and how it ties back to the primary mission of the archive itself (Fruscian, 2011).

The practice of arrangement is related to mission because the way archival records are ordered and maintained is a direct correlation to the how they were created and will be used by the organization. Chronological and subject archival classifications have lost their prominence in modern times (Maher, 1992). Archivists throughout history have moved towards more thoughtful arrangements that do not mix records from various entities. For instance, an organization that operates based on departments will likely follow suit with its archive arrangements. Similarly, an organization that has many sub-groups or subsidiaries may use this system as a guidepost for its archival arrangement.

There are three principles that apply to archival arrangement: respect des fonds, provenance and registratur prinzip or "sanctity of the original order" (Maher, 1992). Respect des fonds demands that archivists treat "fonds" or records with the proper esteem, respecting the integrity of the collection as its own entity at the time of archival deposit. Provenance refers to the classification scheme, naming convention or nomenclature used for records (Cross, 1997). It calls for each deposit to reflect its actual origin. For example, the School of Medicine archive would typically be housed near the School of Medicine's dean within a college or somewhere within the University hospital where the records can be readily available to appropriate administrators, yet still maintained very distinctly from other departments (Maher, 1992). Finally, sanctity of the original order guides the actual ordering and arrangement of specific files. The overall arrangement process can be complex, but typically archivists look to record groups, series, sub-groups, and specific filing units to accomplish this task in ways that are both rational and easily accessible -- another key element of the mission inherent in most archives (Fruscian, 2012).

Description is an archival function that is closely related to arrangement and often carried as a part of archive "processing" (Maher, 1992). However, description extends beyond cataloging and classification. It works to help lessen the risk of "black holes" forming where resources and records become lost. Description works to provide a structured and flexible language that makes archive access easier (Cross, 1997). It is often viewed as a catch-all category. Experts indicate that summary statements of content and clear container lists are often sufficient description tools (Fruscian, 2011). In more complex archives, archivists may use different description tools at different levels. For example, a classification guide may be used for record groups and subgroups or finding aids and container listings may be used within a series (Maher, 1992).

One of the most important practice areas and prominent to nearly every archival mission, is preservation. It is the over-arching concern with environments that surround archival materials (Fruscian, 2012). It also encompasses conservation, or specialized techniques, that help to alter or protect the physical condition of archival items. The practice of archive preservation is crucial to protecting the shelf-life and overall longevity of materials (Cox, 1998). Environmental conditions impact records differently. Light and moisture, for instance, will have a very different impact on a historical photo log than on a paper document.

Other environmental impacts may include debris and dust, air pollution, room temperature, human interference (i.e., handling materials with dirty hands and fingerprints), disasters (i.e., fire, smoke or sprinkler damage), pests or even other materials stored within close proximity (Cox, 1998). Practical archival preservation begins with a proper value assessment or appraisal, examination of the general physical condition of the material, and consideration of what resources an…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Archival Mission And Practice How Does The" (2012, December 03) Retrieved December 7, 2016, from

"Archival Mission And Practice How Does The" 03 December 2012. Web.7 December. 2016. <>

"Archival Mission And Practice How Does The", 03 December 2012, Accessed.7 December. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Relationship of Museums to the

    Alternatively, the person or group acknowledged as a legitimate representative may wish that the museum could continue to hold an object for the benefit of the other party." (Boyd, nd; p. 196) in this instance there should be clarity in the "terms and responsibilities of such holding..." (Boyd, nd; p.196) Boyd relates that in a museum that is 'collection-based' deaccession is an issue that is "exceedingly contentious" (p. 196)

  • Blade Runner A Marriage of Noir and

    Blade Runner: A Marriage of Noir and Sci-Fi Blade Runner is a 1982 film noir/science fiction film set in 2019 that depicts a world that is threatened by human advancements in technology. In the film, robotic humanoids become self-aware and decide that it is within their right to live past their predetermined expiration dates and set out to find a way to live among humans and defy scientists, whom arbitrarily decided

  • Humanitarian Intervention in Somalia

    Humanitarian Intervention in Somalia (1990) What is genocide? When it comes to genocide there is a lot of disagreement amongst legal scholars as to what is enough to qualify as genocide. But basically genocide is described as the logical, structured, planned attack or in other words the deliberate destruction of a national, religious, racial or ethnic group. The said destruction could be in whole or in part. Scholars of the legal system

  • Relevance Materiality Quantitative the Financial Year Accounting...

    Relevance Materiality Quantitative The Financial Year/Accounting Period Concept Application of Literature Review into practice for IKEA's 3-year (2009-2010-2011) financial reports What is missing and ok in the reports? The good and bad points of Reports based on Literature Review. 103-year comparative ratio analysis and their interpretations Literature Review of "Strategic Management Accounting Concept" and its application to facilitate the IKEA's ambitions for the future. The concept of financial reporting is important to each and every organization. The

  • Elites in Engineering in the

    Engineers should focus on the improvement of the performance of the economy. This relates to the transformation of the theories of controlling the world and adopting new frameworks in the operating in conjunction with the planet. New engineers need to adopt and implement new theories of focusing on the economic, social, and political concepts in relation to both technical and nontechnical disciplines (Cameron 2010 p.40). Leaders in British Engineering According to

  • Occupational Safety and Health

    Occupational Health and Safety in Catering Industry in Hong Kong Occupational Safety and Health The incidence rate of workplace accidents in the catering industry in Hong Kong is higher than that of other sectors, even those associated with inherently high risk to workers. Despite corrective action within the catering industry, the accident rate remains stubbornly high. This research identifies causal factors in occupational accidents in catering companies and delineates effective strategies that

  • Oakmont Country Club the Background

    " Johnny Miller, famous golfer and tournament champion in the 1970s and early 1980s. (Dulac, Oakmont Country Club: Awakening the Beast, 2007) "You can hit 72 greens in regulation in the Open at Oakmont and not come close to winning." Arnold Palmer, famous golfer. (Dulac). "The golf course is going to be one of the toughest tests we've ever played in a U.S. Open, especially if it's dry, it will be unreal

Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved