Course:2: Acquiring Your Collections
Lesson:Lesson 3: Appraisal--Deciding What Records to Acquire
Topic:Making Appraisal Decisions


Making Appraisal Decisions

By asking a series of five questions about the records you are evaluating, you can collect important information on which to base your appraisal decision. Remember, during the appraisal process, you are reviewing the records as a group, not as individual items. Your final decision will be based on the answers to these questions for the entire group of records, not on one particular document that is part of a group of records.

These five questions are:

  1. When were the records created?
  2. Why were the records created?
  3. What kind of information is in the records?
  4. Who created the records?
  5. How do these records fit with your program?

Let's take a moment to expand upon each of these.

Archivist with hand to head, stackof papers
These five questions will help you think about the value to your organization of the group of records as a whole.



When were the records created?

Are the records old? Are they scarce or rare? Do they cover an important period of time in the subject matter? Do they cover a short or a long period of time? If your collecting policy limits your collections to a particular time period, do the records fall within this period?

Why were the records created?

What office, group, or person created the records? What are the principal activities of that office, group, or person? Do the records document the main activities or functions of that office, group, or person? Do the records document activities, events, or people that are included in your collection policy?

What kind of information is in the records?

Do the records document important activities or events? Are they routine or non-routine? Do they document things identified in your collection policy? Are the records an important source of information on the topic? Are they the only source? The best source? A credible source? Do they offer a viewpoint that is different than that of other records? Do they provide unique information?

Who created the records?

Do the records reflect a common or an individual point of view? Was the creator a decision-maker? Did the creator have unique or unusual experiences? Was the creator personally involved in the events recorded? Does the creator exhibit a perspective different from the mainstream?  (Every perspective is unique--previous question handles it.)

How do the records fit with your historical records program?

Do the records fit with your program's collection policy? Do they duplicate, complement or enrich your current holdings? Will they be useful to your researchers? What is the condition and size of the materials? Can you accommodate them and commit to both access and preservation? Can you support storage costs and the staff who will make them accessible to the public?

Examing records

Examing records

Examing records