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RECMGMT-L  July 2002

RECMGMT-L July 2002

Subject:

disposing of old books

From:

Jeffrey Carter <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 1 Jul 2002 11:02:35 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (63 lines)

Hello everyone,

One of the more difficult aspects of archival management is records
appraisal.  I firmly believe that records managers are very involved in
this process from the moment we evaluate office files and write a records
retention schedule to the moment we send out destruction notices.

In the appraisal process archivists determine whether records fit into the
archives acquisition / collection policy.  Archivists evaluate whether
records have: a) evidential value -- which demonstrates how an office or
person carried out their business; b) informational value -- the value of
the information to other persons or offices; c) legal value -- which is
not often discussed, and many archivists believe these records actually
contain evidential or informational value (we can discuss this issue
later); and d) intrinsic value -- monetary value which is not often enough
discussed.  In considering intrinsic value, observe an ancient map framed
on office walls, and you may notice a crease in the middle of the map and
a page number in one of the corners.  If you could see the verso, there is
likely geographical text.  The reason for this is that many ancient
atlases have been taken apart and the pages sold for display.  Obviously
the complete atlas has more informational and intrinsic value than does an
individual page.

At NARA, I directed a project to alphabetically arrange 60 years of
monthly Coast Guard ship and shore log books.  I can't recall how many
tens of thousands of books there are.  One summer while standing in line
at a seafood restaurant on the Outer Banks, I saw one of the logs proudly
displayed next to a fish tank.  When I returned to work I verified it was
indeed missing from NARA's records series, but the replevin process became
mired in beauracracy, and I suppose the log is still on display in the
restaurant window.

Part of the appraisal process involves recognizing secondary and tertiary
research value to scholars.  In some cases, new scholarly approaches
affect our decisions.  During the mid-1960's historians began using the
sociological jurisprudence model developed at Yale University to utilize
statistics as a means of understanding the American society.  Statistical
models were used to evaluate data relating to poverty, segregated
schooling, gender-biased employment, health care, and many other areas. It
is a difficult to predict such radial swings in research methodology, but
this is why we all stay professionally active.

A researcher approached me after the September 11 terrorist attacks asking
to see the museums visitors comment forms.  Admittedly, I did not consider
these records permanently valuable, but I froze their destruction, and I
am reappraising their value.  At this point, I'm still evaluating their
value, because one can keep only so many comment sheets with the words
"Hitler sucks."

In my opinion records appraisal is challenging, but it is an interesting
intellectual exercise.

Jeff

Jeffrey E. Carter
Records Management Officer
& Institutional Records Archivist
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
[log in to unmask]
202-314-0339

List archives at http://lists.ufl.edu/archives/recmgmt-l.html
Contact [log in to unmask] for assistance

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