Course:2: Acquiring Your Collections
Lesson:Lesson 2: Writing A Collection Policy
Topic:Element Five


Element 5:
Methods of Acquiring Historical Materials

In your collection policy, you should include general information about how your program will acquire records. The specific forms to use, approvals needed, and other pertinent information are not necessary at the policy level. (We will discuss in detail some of the common ways to transfer records to your program in the next lesson.)

Keep in mind that acquisition of archival records involves the legal transfer of property and other rights from the owner to you--all records pertaining to archival acquisitions are retained permanently. 

As you create this element of your policy, you should investigate how your program currently receives records and consider whether the current practice is sufficient. You may also ask:

Will you accept material only if ownership is transferred to you, or will you take in material as a temporary loan? Except in unusual circumstances archivists recommend only accepting records with ownership so that you have final authority about arrangement, use, and disposition. You should avoid temporary loans unless the loan is for exhibit purposes only. 

Will you accept restricted or confidential material? A balance between the privacy of the creator and the rights of the public needs to be struck. Archivists recommend accepting as few restrictions on access as possible.

State, in general terms, how collections can be acquired by your program. You might try using this format to get started:

Materials may be acquired by gift, bequest, purchase, or any other transaction that passes title of the materials to [program name here].

If you need some help understanding methods of acquisition, take a look at Lesson Four, where we discuss methods of acquiring materials; then come back to complete this element of your collection policy.

Remember to record your statement on the collection policy worksheet!

Definition icon

Historical records are generally transferred to an archive in one of the following ways: 

Donation--can be a straightforward gift with no strings attached, or come to you via a bequest or gift with specific requirements. 

Purchase--many organizations support acquisition through purchase from private or commercial vendors. 

Transfer--government records are often transferred using standard forms such as certificates of records disposal and records retention schedules.

Judge's gavel
Acquisition of archival records involves the legal transfer of property.