Theories of Appraisal in Archives: From Hillary Jenkinson to Terry Cook's Times

Theories of Appraisal in Archives: From Hillary Jenkinson to Terry Cook's Times

Olefhile Mosweu (University of South Africa, South Africa) and Lekoko Sylvester Kenosi (Qatar National Library, Qatar)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3137-1.ch002


Appraisal is defined as a set of recordkeeping processes involved with determining how long to keep records and what ultimately will become the archival representation for the future. It has been described as the most intellectually demanding, controversial, and debated issue in archival science. This is because there are different opinions regarding how records appraisal should be undertaken and thus no two archivists will approach records appraisal in exactly the same way due to the absence of a perfect formula. The objective of this chapter is to discuss appraisal theories and their applicability in appraisal practice. The thesis of this chapter is that any of the four appraisal methodologies would be able to select the future archive, including a combination of the various appraisal methodologies as it allows one to tap from the strength of each.
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No function is as troubling and as important to archivists as records appraisal (Ngulube 2001; Garaba, 2007; Greene, 2009; Cook, 2011). Greene (2009) avers that since the 1940s, most archivists agree that archival appraisal is their primary function but they do not agree on how it should be done. There is simply no one way of doing it. This is also attested to by scholars such as Stuckey (2004), Kenosi and Moatlhodi (2012), Thanye, Kalusopa and Bwalya (2015) and Couture (2005), just to mention a few. The Queensland State Archives defines it as “the process of evaluating business activities and records to determine which records need to be captured and how long those records needs to be kept to meet business, accountability requirements and community expectations” (Queensland State Archives, 2010, p. 5). The first activity involves the evaluation of records either for preservation or destruction, the second has to do with the totality of measures taken to ensure long term access. In agreement, IRMT (1999) and the National Archives of UK (TNA) (2004) note that records appraisal involves making decisions on what records need to be kept and for how long in order to enable an organisation to keep utilizing them for operations. Secondly, appraisal is done for purposes of deciding which records have archival value and can be transferred to an archival repository for permanent preservation as archives. This kind of appraisal is often referred to as appraising for enduring value while the former is appraisal for continuing utility (IRMT 1999). Although the second reason for undertaking appraisal as espoused by Queensland State Archives (2010) refers to ensuring access to archival records, in essence it is more or less a similar reason to the one put forward by both IRMT (1999) and TNA (2004), which is the selection of records for permanent preservation. This is because the whole idea of preserving the future archive is to make it accessible (Ngulube, 2001; Forde, 2007; Oweru & Mnjama 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Theory: Some statement meant to explain how something is done or ought to be done, including the relationships between constituent parts that make up the whole entity.

Appraisal School: The approach that informs a particular method of records appraisal. It can also be regarded as an appraisal approach. Further still, in this context, the term means records appraisal methodology.

Archives: Records with enduring value beyond the use of the creating agency and selected for permanent preservation through the archival appraisal process.

Appraisal: The practice and process of assessing values in records to determine what can be preserved as archives and destroyed because they are no longer useful.

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