Course:3: Processing
Lesson:Lesson 2: Arrangement
Topic:Original Order

Original Order

In keeping with the idea of provenance, you also should try to keep the original filing structure of the records. This is called the “original order” of the collection. Whenever possible, records should be maintained in the order in which the creator maintained them. It’s all right to correct obviously misfiled folders, but leave the basic organizational structure of the collection as it was originally set up. 

If you are working with collections of relatively modern “office” types of records, original order refers to the original order of the whole filing system – not the original order in which individual documents were placed in file folders.

Other collections, such as diaries, personal papers, and photographs often aren’t filed in this “office”-like way.  In these cases original order is most often chronological – the order in which the materials were created.

Even if the reason behind the organizational scheme isn’t immediately obvious to you, the creator had some rationale for it. Maintaining original order helps archivists present a collection to the researcher that shows how the creator used the records. Sometimes figuring out and maintaining original order just won’t be possible; we’ll discuss what to do when that happens later in this lesson.


files in box
Processors should keep the files in their original order whenever possible.

 records ordered; records unordered
Maintaining records in their original order reveals how the creator used the records.