Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reappraisal and Deaccessioning: A Literature Review Part 4 of 5

This post is part of a series on a literature review of reappraisal and deaccessioning in archival collections. Click on a link below to read further:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5

Interestingly enough, space seems to be the catalyst for reluctant archivists to reappraise, as in the case of the Wisconsin Historical Society, which outgrew its repository. Since the 1950s, the Wisconsin state government became a “profusion of regulatory functions, the concurrent proliferation of bureaucratic systems, and the resultant explosion of records” (p. 36). Knies describes how the collection increased based on appraisal policies that were reevaluated during reappraisal. The “Wisconsin Way” of accessioning public records while also soliciting manuscripts with “expansive and sometimes even exhaustive” documentation dates from the mid-nineteenth century (p. 37). He writes,
One finds appraisals in the archival case files describing both the content and context of records series and assigning values for acquisitions decisions that derive from the larger collecting interests of the Historical Society’s manuscripts holdings and its North American history library. For example, these [appraisal values give] primary significance to the records’ contribution to potential researchers’ understanding of topics of health, welfare, economics, crime and punishment, social mores and others. Only secondarily would the appraisal credit the importance of how the records defined the original regulatory function (p. 38).
Additionally, the public record appraisal process evaluated “individual series one at time, largely out of context, and without any supporting records management structure” (p. 37).

Similarly, Wojcik describes factors—a larger facility, professional staff increase, and vague appraisal criteria—that contributed to the considerable backlog at the State Archives of Michigan. Archivists accessioned records that were not scheduled for preservation due to poor quality retention and disposal schedules developed by records management services. Archivists also accessioned anything with potential value, planning to weed them during processing.

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