LIS-S 585 Archival Appraisal and Management
- Prerequisite(s): LIS-S 500, LIS-S 507, LIS-S S581
- Delivery: Online
- Semesters offered: Fall, Spring (Check the schedule to confirm.)
Appraisal is often considered the most important process of developing an archive, but without agreed upon standards, how does one go about deciding what has permanent value? Incorporating a strong theoretical foundation with practical approaches, we will explore our responsibilities to the profession, the documentary heritage we steward, and the communities we serve. This course explores the archivist’s most important responsibility: appraisal. Students survey the theories, techniques, and methods that archivists use to identify documents and other materials of enduring value for long-term preservation, access, and use. Students explore why archival materials are being accepted (or selected) for an archive; how society or an organization is “documented”; how archival materials are being used, by whom, and why. Students will also study the history of appraisal and compare divergent contemporary approaches and study the work of various repositories. Emphasis is placed on professionally responsible accountability to contemporaries and the future. By the end of the class, students can conduct an appraisal analysis and design an appraisal or acquisition policy for a collecting institution to serve the archives larger mission.
Program Learning Goals Supported
Instructors map their courses to specific LIS Program Goals. Mapped program goals drive the design of each course and what students can expect to generally learn.
- Connect Core Values and Professional Ethics to Practice
- Facilitate Engagement in the Information Ecosystem
- Curate Collections for Designated Communities
- Lead and Manage Libraries, Archives and Other Information Organizations
- Examine Systemic Inequalities to Improve Library and Information Practices through Equitable and Socially Just Interventions
Instructors develop learning outcomes for their courses. Students can expect to be able to achieve the learning outcomes for a given course after successfully completing the course.
- Analyze the methodologies and tools that archivists apply to develop selection and appraisal policies for inclusion in archives.
- Compare different appraisal approaches from the literature and evaluate the merits and shortcomings of each.
- Critique different appraisal policies from different archives and/or repositories.
- Weigh practical, legal, and ethical issues in the appraisal and acquisition of archives.
- Make professional decisions concerning the selection and acquisition of archival materials.
- Formulate students' own ideas about contentious aspect of archival work based on their understanding of appraisal theories and recent discourse.
Instruction is in Canvas. Lessons are organized into Modules whose length may vary.
Module 1: Course Overview; Introduction to Appraisal
- Recognize and understand the topics covered in this module.
Module 2: Foundations of Appraisal Theory
This is a tour of foundational theories of appraisal that still resonate throughout the profession as to what constitutes archival value. While perhaps dated, understanding these are essential to understanding professional developments over the past several decades:
- Muller, Feith, and Fruin. aka the Dutch Manual (1898)
- Sir Hillary Jenkinson, the UK custodial view (1922)
- Theodore Schellenberg, U.S. notions of value (1956)
- Intrinsic Value
Module 3: Macro-Appraisal, Functional Analysis, Documentation Strategies, etc.
This module focuses on some broad methodologies that emerged subsequent to the foundational theories as to how appraisal activities could/should evolve:
- Macro-appraisal, the gift from Canada, which assesses organizational functions and the impact of these functions to establish appraisal criteria
- Functional analysis, a refinement or offshoot of macro-appraisal
- Documentation strategy, an attempt to foster collaboration to improve appraisal and collection outcomes
- The Black Box, an attempt to synthesize divergent views and methods to produce better results
- The Minnesota Method, another approach in establishing appraisal criteria that blends several elements of these other approaches
Module 4: Synthesizing Appraisal Thought into Practice
Shifting from theory and conceptual methodology, this module focuses on establishing specific criteria on which to base any appraisal analysis. Examples are provided to demonstrate how criteria can be applied and how they influence collection development. The notion of use as a potential criteria is explored in some detail.
Module 5: Collection Development and Policies
You examine reasons to have written mission statements and collection development policies, including how they help manage expectations and serve as a useful management tool in focusing and supporting a repository's efforts. You also look at some common elements of what a solid collection policy should include.
Module 6: Sampling and Case Files
This module looks at approaches to dealing with large sets of materials, such as case files. You explore different methods of sampling as an acceptable appraisal and selection approach and how to ensure sampling results in representative collections that support a repository's mission. Youl also look as some specific cases studies in how archives have applied a sampling approach to specific record series.
Module 7: Appraising Born Digital Records
You discuss technical considerations related to appraisal and electronic records. How is the appraisal of born-digital records different from appraising analog, paper-based records? You also explore some emerging tools and approaches to dealing with the complexities electronic records present to the appraisal function of archives.
Module 8: Appraising and Acquiring Personal Papers
You discuss some elements to factor into an appraisal of personal papers, including electronic personal records. This includes understanding the multifaceted persona individuals embody, as well as the social and cultural norms they reflect.
Module 9: Records Management and Retention Schedules
You review some basic concepts of records management and the records lifecycle and how these relate to appraisal. We will examine typical elements of records retention schedules and how they reflect appraisal analysis.
Module 10: Reappraisal and Deaccessioning
Starting with a definition of reappraisal, you discuss different professional perspectives on the appropriateness of reappraisal and reasons to undertake reappraisal. You explore some questions to ask to determine whether reappraisal is warranted and examine the professional standards for reappraisal and deaccessioning.
Module 11: Post-Modern Theory
Turning back to theory for a moment, you look at the influence of post-modern thinking on the archival profession and how it has impacted approaches to appraisal. You discuss how post-modernism represents a direct link to contemporary discourse on archival power and neutrality, which will be the focus of later modules.
Module 12: Appraisal Authority: Legal and Ethical Considerations
You review some legal considerations that influence appraisal, including:
- Freedom of information
You also explore ethical considerations related to the appraisal and acquisition of materials while considering the appraisal decisions reflected in specific case studies.
Module 13: Engaging Creators: Social Responsibility, Community, Power
- Notions of power within archives and archival appraisal
- Concepts of social responsibly and social justice
- Community expectations
Module 14: Engaging Creators: Identity, Memory, Culture, Diversity, Inclusion
You look at the mediation role of archivists when conducting appraisal and the implications this has in terms of memory, identity, diversity, and inclusion. You explore notions of personal context and bias and how the appraisal process not only assigns value but creates value and thereby creates history and memory.
Module 15: Archives Management and the Appraisal Nexus
This week you explore some approaches to archives management and how they impact and are reflected in appraisal. Topics include:
- Strategic planning
- Opportunity, plan, price
- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (aka SWOT analysis)
- Gap analysis
- Strategic fit
- Knowing your stakeholders
- More product, less process (MPLP)
- Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)
Policies and Procedures
Please be aware of the following linked policies and procedures. Note that in individual courses instructors will have stipulations specific to their course.