On June 15th, 2020, the Archives Association of British Columbia (AABC), along with LUCIDEA, hosted a webinar on The ABC’s of Archival Appraisal & Deaccessioning. Geared towards information professionals,this informative session outlined best practices for appraising archival records and the steps to deaccession records that do not meet an archive, museum, or libraries institutional mandate. This session also gave an overview of the National Archival Appraisal Board (NAAB) program and the services they offer.

Thank you to Lisa Glandt, AABC EAS Coordinator and Melanie Hardbattle, NAAB Regional Coordinator for BC and Northern Canada, for the opportunity to participate in this webinar, and their informative presentations.

Archival appraisal of records

Archival appraisal is the process of determining whether records and other materials have permanent (archival) value. Appraisal may be done at the collection, creator, series, file, or item level. Appraisal can take place prior to donation and prior to physical transfer, at or after accessioning.

There is no set formula for apprising archival records for a value, however there are some foundational values that can aid in the appraisal process.

  1. Administrative – These records are useful for conducting business, or day to day affairs. They can also support decision making, operational requirements, and safeguard legal and fiscal interests or obligations.

Example: contracts and agreements.

  • Legal – These records can be used as evidence of legal authority, and transactions that include rights, entitlements, and obligations that are established by law and/or regulation.

Example: wills, birth certificates, adoption records, marriage certificates.

  • Fiscal – These records are useful for conducting the business or day to day financial affairs of the creator including financial planning, management of assets and liabilities, and/or investment strategies.

Example: bonds, stocks, mortgages.

  • Historical – The value of the records as evidence of the people, places, events with which the creator interacted with or forms a part of.

Example: personal records, diaries, photographs, and maps

Archival appraisal flow

MandateAcquisition PolicyDonor Relations
Why does the archives exist? What does the archives intend to acquire? Who does the archive serve?Types of materials. Geographic boundaries. Time periods. Steps for acquiring & deaccessioning records (donations, purchase, transfer, loans, repatriation).Complete donation. Signed deed of gift and/or Memorandum of Understanding. Ongoing outreach.

For more information about acquisitions, appraisals, and accessioning, check out The AABC Archivist’s Toolkit: Acquisition, Appraisal and Accessioning.

They can’t get rid of that, can they? – the deaccessioning process and why it’s important

Deaccessioning is the process in which libraries, archives, and museums permanently remove items from their collections. This is a very important process for institutions to undertake to ensure that their collections are relevant and concise.

So why do we deaccession archival records?

  1. The records do not fit the current mandate or acquisition policy.
  2. The provenance is unknown, meaning that there are no donation records or accession records pertaining to the collection. 
  3.  The content or the subject matter of the records are unknown or unclear.
  4. The records are being repatriated.
  5. The records are not unique or archival.
  6. The records have not been used, or their use is very infrequent.
  7. The records are highly restricted due to privacy concerns.
  8. They are copies of other records.
  9. They are inaccessible due to media obsolesce.
  10. They are dangerous to staff and patrons.

After it has been determined that records are no longer suitable for the archive the next steps are to collect all the information about the records that will help the archive in identifying donor agreements, any financial information about the records, review the condition or preservation reports about the records, and then review the statistics on the usage of the collection. Once this has happened the records can be prepped for either return to the original donor or donor family, transfer to another archive, or they are destroyed.

Deaccessioning tips for archival record donors

When beginning to deaccession collections it is the goal of libraries, archives, and museums to be as transparent as possible about what will happen to donated materials. It is important for donors and partners to be comfortable and informed on the process of deaccessioning and what it means for the records you or your family member has donated.

Make sure that you sign a deed of gift with the archive, this will allow for the archive to smoothly deaccession the records as it would be part of the donation agreement. If you did not sign a deed of gift the archive will attempt to contact you or your heirs to secure an agreement that will allow for deaccessioning. As well if you took a tax receipt, this will imply that you have gifted the records to an archive, allowing them to deaccession the records.

You can find more information about AABC, their resources, toolkits, as well as their workshops and educational programs at https://aabc.ca/

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