Recap: Archivist’s Boot-Camp

For those of you interested in archives or special collections, this post is for you!

Last Wednesday I attended the N.C. Connecting to Collections Archival Boot-Camp and I wanted to share a few highlights of what I learned. The boot-camp was led by Matt Turi of UNC and was a Society of North Carolina Archivists Annual Meeting pre-conference workshop. The workshop was based on teaching materials developed by the N.C. State Historical Records Advisory Board. It was a fun and useful learning opportunity! I highly recommend Connecting to Collections workshops. You can find information on them here:

The take away information that I found most interesting and useful is:

  • The difference between an archive and manuscript
  • Appraising collections before you accept them
  • Make sure that you have comprehensive Deed of Gift and Collection Management r policies

Is it an archive or manuscript? The main difference here is that archives can contain materials other than or including paper documents; photographs, audio material, physical objects and such. Archive materials often originate from government agencies, businesses, and non-profits. Manuscripts are generally single documents or a collection of documents, sometimes from a variety of sources that pertain to a specific purpose. These often originate from personal papers but can be from organizations too.

Appraising Collections: things to think about are budget, equipment needs, storage needs

Do you have the budget to process or store the materials? Can you triage materials if needed (for water, fire, or pest damage)? Do you have the proper equipment to allow researchers to view the collections (microfilm reader or slide projector, etc.)? Does your repository have the proper storage space and climate control to preserve the collection?

Define the mechanisms for acquiring materials and make sure to assign a person in charge of making decisions regarding acquisition. Think about what your goal is in acquiring collections and how they relate to the institutional or organizational goals.

Create a Survey of Appraisal

  • What is the content of the collection? Get an overview.
  • Condition of content? Dusty? Infestation? Wet? Moldy?
  • Compare results with the goals of the institution.

*Be careful of accepting Depositor Loans – donor can take back the collection and that creates problems for access for future researchers. Also, a lot of time can go into organizing, digitizing and caring for collections that are wasted when collections are taken back.

Restrictions: Don’t accept strict access rules; excluding certain people or requesting written permission. Better to place date restriction or restrict all use. Mark the collection CLOSED if it is restricted.

Deed of Gift Agreement: Important because it validates the collection, and provides legal documentation

It is important to indicate on the Deed of Gift that you will discard from the collection at your discretion. This allows for removal of duplicate items or items with little archival or research worth such as receipts or illegible or damaged items.

Deed of Gift Agreement should record this information:

  • Donor’s Name
  • Repository Name
  • Collection Title
  • Description (who is creator, nature of collection)
  • Transfer of Ownership Statement (gives legal ownership of collection to the organization)
  • Access Restrictions (who can view the collection)
  • Disposal procedures (plans for removal of objects)
  • Signature (donor and archivist)

Collection Policy: This will define the content and form of the materials your organization seeks to acquire and the procedure that you will use to add and to remove materials from your archive and manuscript collections.

Eight elements of a collection policy:

  1. Program’s name – Name of your repository
  2. Purpose – Define the purpose of your archive and manuscript collections
  3. Collection or Subject  – Define your collection subject based on the goals of the organization
  4. Acceptable Formats – What type of documents or objects will you accept into your collections?
  5. Acquisition Process – What is your policy on adding collections?
  6. Removal Process – What is your policy on removal of items?
  7. Loan Policy – Will you loan your collections? To whom? What type of insurance will you require?
  8. Policy Review Process – When are you going to review? Every year? Every 5 years? When a new curator is hired?

This is by no means all that I learned at the workshop but it highlights some of the things that I believe are essential to having a sound archive policy and things that were new to me even after researching archival arrangement for my collection project at Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at


Karen Feeney

LISSA Secretary 2011-2012


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