Author Archives: HeatherS

Third Thursday #2!

Welcome to the second Third Thursdays Monthly Appraisal Conversation! With this regular conversation series, we hope to spark regular, continued discussion among section members and interested others about the fundamental archival action of appraisal.

The questions for this month are:

  • Where do you learn about appraisal?
  • What is the most provocative, useful, or thoughtful comment that you have read (or heard) about appraisal from others?
  • What advice would you give to a new archivist who is interested in learning more about appraisal?

 

Thank you to those who already responded to our questions– and its not too late! Please read and join the conversation in the comments section below–we hope to keep the conversation moving today (March 17) between 11:30am-1:30pm Central Time!

[Note: we did not require respondents to sign their name, so for the sake of clarity, unsigned comments are numbered.]

Mark Sprang, South Carolina Dept of Archives and History:

Where do you learn about appraisal? Graduate coursework provides a great foundation to get yourself on the right track, as my program had an entire course dedicated to it. Continuing education resources can be great as well, especially for the complex nature of electronic records. Experienced colleagues and coworkers can provide a wealth of experience to draw on for new professionals in the field. I have found that to be especially helpful in my current position.

What is the most provocative, useful, or thoughtful comment that you have read (or heard) about appraisal from others? Sometimes, despite all of the literature out there or regulations governing what must be kept, an educated guess is the best thing you can do.

What advice would you give to a new archivist who is interested in learning more about appraisal? Try and find diverse opinions. In repositories where the majority of records are not part of a retention schedule (like special collections), appraisal is extremely important and is qualitative in nature. Try to come at a set of records as objectively as you can. Also, take advantage of some of the published articles available on the SAA website. They will be invaluable.

Archivist #2:

Where do you learn about appraisal? Looking back, I thought that I learned a lot about appraisal on the job. But really, I learned a lot in grad school before I started to work as an archivist, as well. I would say that I learned a lot of what NOT to do from my job and coworkers, too.

What is the most provocative, useful, or thoughtful comment that you have read (or heard) about appraisal from others? I think its important to try to be open to a range of ideas when it comes to appraisal. I work with southwestern history, and there are different opinions when it comes to whether particular items/records are worthy of keeping. I remember discussing the idea of records showing different world views, and how important it was to be open to other peoples’ ways of keeping records.

What advice would you give to a new archivist who is interested in learning more about appraisal?  Read, talk to people, and try to think about not just the present but the future use of records that you are keeping. Try not to get pressured into taking records from people just because they leave the books or boxes at your door.

Archivist #3:

Where do you learn about appraisal? Graduate school. I’d like to find other people to talk about appraisal with, now that I’m an archivist. I feel like now that I have a few years of experience, I could talk more knowledgably.

What advice would you give to a new archivist who is interested in learning more about appraisal? Archivists are not neutral and neither is appraisal. So we need to talk about what appraisal is in order to be inclusive. Read and talk with other archivists and other people.

 

Do one or more of these responses resonate with you? Do you have suggestions, comments, or experiences to share? Can you suggest an article, book, or other helpful resource? Tell us in the comments!

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Third Thursdays #2: Get ready for March!

The second edition of our monthly conversation series, Third Thursdays, will be held on Thursday, March 17, from 11:30am-1:30pm US Central Time— that’s right, St. Patrick’s Day!  On the third Thursday of each month, mark your calendar to join us here on the Section blog for Third Thursdays Appraisal Conversations— for what we hope will be lively and informative discussion.

Our conversation for March will focus on these questions, all centered around learning and the important archival function of appraisal:

  • Where do you learn about appraisal?
  • What is the most provocative, useful, or thoughtful comment that you have read (or heard) about appraisal from others?
  • What advice would you give to a new archivist who is interested in learning more about appraisal?

Please help us make this a conversation that connects with your interests!

This asynchronous conversation is scheduled for Thursday, March 17th, from 11:30am-1:30pm US Central Standard Time. Bring your questions, challenges, concerns, and thoughts about appraisal so that we can all learn from each other!
If you can’t join us on that day and want to send us your thoughts in advance, you can do so here:  http://goo.gl/forms/NZgMs16G0y

Did you miss our February conversation? You can read the responses and our wrap up here:

https://appraisalsaa.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/third-thursdays-1/

https://appraisalsaa.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/third-thursday-1-wrap-up/

We’ll also be tweeting about this– follow us on Twitter if you don’t already! https://twitter.com/AppraisalSAA

This is an experiment, so let us know what you think!

    -SAA Appraisal & Acquisition Steering Committee

Third Thursday #1: Wrap Up

Many thanks to everyone who participated as part of our inaugural monthly conversation on appraisal! This was an experiment, and what we’ve learned will help us to put together an even better discussion next month.

(Speaking of next month, our second Third Thursday Conversation will take place on March 17– yes, St. Patrick’s Day! Mark your calendars, and look for a reminder from us that gives you a chance to respond in advance if you won’t be able to make it on that day.)

Back to Third Thursday #1: some overlapping themes that emerged from the discussion about your greatest appraisal challenges:

  • appraisal of inconsistent and disorganized documents with varied levels of accompanying context/metadata, often in challenging or proprietary formats
  • educating donors/bereaved family members and managing donor expectations/communications regarding donations
  • concern about collection priorities and goals– how to manage doubt/fear about collecting too much/too little/the “important stuff”
  • reappraisal and deaccessioning outside of personal subject/domain knowledge

First: you are not alone! It is clear from this brief conversation that there are archivists out there with the same questions and concerns that you may have around appraisal. We aim to bring together archivists who want to thoughtfully discuss and consider matters of appraisal.

Second: there are resources out there, so keep reading and thinking! Bringing further attention to conversations that touch on appraisal in archival literature, popular media, and other venues is part of what we try to do. We hope to continue highlighting relevant and important dialogues, with your help. We’re always open to hearing about new approaches, ideas, and suggestions!

Remember to join us here next month, on March 17,  for the second installment of Third Thursday Conversations about appraisal issues!

 

Let us know what you think!

~SAA Acquisitions & Appraisal Section Steering Committee

Twitter link: https://twitter.com/AppraisalSAA

 

 

Third Thursdays #1!

Welcome to the inaugural Third Thursdays Monthly Appraisal Conversation! With this regular conversation series, we hope to spark regular, continued discussion among section members and interested others about the fundamental archival action of appraisal.

The question this month was:Based on your current collecting/experience, what is your biggest appraisal challenge?

Thank you to those who already responded to our first question– and its not too late! Please read and join the conversation in the comments section below–we hope to keep the conversation moving throughout the day on February 18!

 

[Note: we did not require respondents to sign their name, so for the sake of clarity, unsigned comments are numbered.]

Laura Uglean Jackson, University of California, Irvine : “At this very moment, my biggest appraisal challenge is appraising thousands of electronic documents (mostly emails) from a former UCI Chancellor. What makes it difficult is that all of the emails were filed individually into an electronic records system known as ExFiles. I believe the system was built by campus IT. Nothing is organized into groups or series, and the system includes confidential records. Although nothing is organized, the files contain keywords and subject metadata (because ExFiles does not support full indexing). These keywords and subject headings are inconsistent as they have been entered by various students and staff over the course of many years.

The Chancellor’s Office and IT were both hesitant to give me access to the full system, despite my (and my boss’s) best efforts. I met with both units and was able to view the system. After seeing how the emails were described, I concluded that full access to the system would not be necessary. Rather, I could make appraisal decisions based on the metadata alone. IT was able to download metadata from all non-confidential files sent/received between 2005-2012- approximately 9200 files. I am now using software called Open Refine to review the metadata and make a decision to take or not. It’s quite the slog, but the good news is that I’ve reviewed 7000 emails without having to look at each one individually. The bad news is that I still have 2000 to review and it’s getting harder to make broad decisions because I’ve already reviewed the low-hanging fruit.

Archivist #1:It could probably be boiled down to managing donor expectations and communication. Dealing with donors who wait until the last minute to contact the archives thereby leaving no time for a proper appraisal. Managing their expectations of what type of information we need from them to understand the collection and do the appraisal, and the limits of what we can do for them and their records.

Archivist #2:I think my biggest appraisal challenge has been and continues to be doubt – I am no hoarder, but I constantly wonder, am I rejecting too much material? Am I still accepting too much? How do I choose which is more important historically? Because we have to make choices, and be able to back them up.

Archivist #3: “One of the appraisal challenges I had in my former position was accepting material that may already be in the repository. It was especially true for University Archives, but also a problem with the Manuscripts. Reviewing donor/collection files and the finding aid didn’t always give me a sense of what we held, especially for the larger collections more recent collections. In the past, additions were inventoried but that practice had long fallen off due to time. And speaking of time, there was often no time to check before I went to visit a donor. It always seemed safest and faster to accept what I wasn’t sure about and sift through later. However, we were always short-staffed and we were running out of space so just accepting it to sort through later wouldn’t be an option forever. Also, the archivist that processed the collection was usually the most familiar with the contents, but the processing archivist usually wasn’t the one who appraised the collection.

Archivist #4: “I found it difficult to appraise material from bereaved donors. Often I was contacted shortly after a husband, wife, mother or father passed away and then asked to deal with the papers or a collection. There was always pressure from interested parties to move quickly before the opportunity was lost or material was thrown away (e.g., library administration, the deceased’s colleagues that wanted the material available for research, & family/friends that wanted to be helpful). I think the donors often weren’t ready to decide on disposition of the material if it didn’t fit within our collecting policies and were overwhelmed at the amount of material they had to deal with so asked us to take everything, or find a more appropriate repository. Which isn’t a bad thing to do but I didn’t always have time to follow through in this manner with every donation and neither did the rest of the staff, it was generally not our policy though we made exceptions. They also didn’t want to hear that the materials their loved one collected may not be appropriate for any repository because the materials lacked enduring value.

Archivist #5: “My biggest challenge is convincing my donors that their records do in fact have value – and even more so in aggregate. Donors are more prone to item-level selection (focusing on what might be “the important documents”) vs. an understanding of the value of seeing a continuous set of records created in context.

Archivist #6: “I work at a small local history archive that also has a genealogy collection. I am not a genealogist and my biggest challenge is re-appraising our genealogy books, newsletters and periodicals with the end goal of substantially weeding this collection. This is particularly a challenge because I am not a subject expert.

Do one or more of these responses resonate with you? Do you have suggestions, comments, or experiences to share? Can you suggest an article, book, or other helpful resource? Tell us in the comments!

 

 

Introducing Third Thursdays!

We’re delighted to announce that we are trying something new! Beginning February 18th, the Appraisal & Acquisitions Section will be hosting monthly conversations about appraisal right here on the section blog! On the third Thursday of each month, mark your calendar to join us for Third Thursdays Appraisal Conversations— for what we hope will be lively and informative discussions.

This month, we are asking for your response to this question:

Based on your current collecting/experience, what is your biggest appraisal challenge?

Please help us make this a conversation that connects with your interests!

The first asynchronous conversation is scheduled for Thursday, February 18th. Bring your questions, challenges, concerns, and thoughts about appraisal so that we can all learn from each other!
If you can’t join us on that day and want to send us your thoughts in advance, you can do so here:  https://goo.gl/e50kJw
We’ll also be tweeting about this– follow us on Twitter if you don’t already! https://twitter.com/AppraisalSAA

This is an experiment, so let us know what you think!

    -SAA Appraisal & Acquisition Steering Committee