Course Series ConclusionThe course was created for those who have responsibility for archival collections but who have not had the opportunity to take formal archival training or education. Taking this course will not make anyone an archivist, but we hope that it will make you aware of the responsibilities and obligations historical records programs accept when they bring a collection into their institutions.
We hope you take away the following concepts from this course:
1. Historical records are unique, unpublished resources whose significance lies in their content irrespective of age.
2. Institutions must use collections policies to guide them when accepting or rejecting collections within their historical records programs.
3. The legal title to a collection must be transferred to an historical records program by an instrument of transfer.
4. Bringing collections under physical and intellectual control when they first come into your building is necessary for every historical records program.
5. Processing your collections using the concepts of provenance and original order is necessary for your patrons to make the best use of your collections.
6. The physical conditions under which collections are housed will determine if those collections survive.
7. Access to your collections must be balanced by preservation and security concerns.
Historical records are important elements of the heritage of our communities. They are held throughout our nation, in large professionally managed archives and in small local collections. They are held by governments, libraries, museums, historical societies, private companies, and many other types of organizations. No matter how large or small your own historical records program is, providing the basic elements of archival management of your collections is vital in order to preserve and provide access to our cultural heritage.
One of the interesting aspects of working in an historical records program is that there is very little that is totally right or totally wrong. Almost every decision we make is framed by the circumstances surrounding the issue or collection in question. Professional archivists will consult colleagues on issues and reach a consensus decision whenever possible.
We strongly encourage you to consult with colleagues and professional archivists whenever you are presented with issues that trouble you. Remember we are all doing our best to collect, preserve, and make available historical records. If this course accomplishes nothing else, it is our great hope that it will connect professional archivists with those intelligent, hard working, and well meaning individuals who care for historical records in local institutions.
Remember that caretakers of historical records work hard to collect and preserve their unique collections, but that collection and preservation have to be balanced with making those records available for research. The best, most significant, most interesting historical record in the world is virtually worthless if it is not used by anyone.
We encourage you to take advantage of further educational opportunities regarding archival work that are available to you. There are also many resources available online that can help you learn more; we have noted many of them throughout this course. We also encourage you to implement as much as possible of the information that has been provided in this course in your own historical records programs and institutions.
Finally, we wish you and your institutions well. By taking this course you have demonstrated your commitment to the collection in your care and we commend you for that commitment.