Course:3: Processing
Lesson:Lesson 2: Arrangement
Topic:Step 4: Make a Plan

Step 4: Make a Plan

Based on your reviews of the records, create a brief plan for how you want to arrange the records. It shouldnít be formal or lengthy; just notes on a pad of paper will be fine. But writing it down will make clear how you want the final arrangement to work--and it will help keep you from too much back-tracking if you get called onto another project and donít get back to this particular collection right away!

For each collection you have identified, your plan should include:

  • The corresponding accession number
  • The records series you have identified within the collection (if applicable)
  • A description of the original order; or the order you will impose if there is no useable original order (and why you chose the arrangement that you did)
  • Types of formats in the collection and an estimate of the kinds and amounts of processing supplies you will need
  • Your thoughts as to what should be processed first and any problems that might be encountered.

Some Final Hints on Arrangement

Whenever possible, box the records yourself (and label the boxes!) before they are physically moved to your location. This is the best way to understand and preserve the original order of the collection. When doing this, you can often identify collections and series on the spot and label boxes so they can be identified later.

When in doubt, donít rearrange. If youíre not sure what the original order is or if it seems not to make sense, be cautious before changing it. It is very hard to reorganize back into the original order.

Remember to use collections and series wisely. If your accessions arenít organized this way at the time of accessioning, you can always organize them at the time of arrangement.

Keep it simple. If there is no original order, or if there is an original order that is unusable, contact a professional archivist whenever possible. If you donít have access to an archivist, follow these general guidelines: 1) do as little rearranging as possible to make the collection usable and 2) use the simplest order possible.


Put your plan in writing.


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Contact a professional archivist if possible when the original order can't be used. Click here for the COSHRC list of state archives/state coordinators.