We accessioned over 200 new records this March, and though it took a few months in planning it feels like a remarkable achievement. Let’s take a step back, have you ever wondered how records get into an Archive? Before records become part of the Archival holdings, they must be accessioned.
Accessioning is the process by which the Archives take legal and physical custody of records – it is the first step towards making records accessible to administrators, researchers and other users of the archives. Sushil Kumar in his book Archives Principles & Practices defines Accessioning as the practice of transferring physically and legally to a repository units of records at a single time. Well that makes it pretty much a legal transfer.
It also means to take and document the custody and receipt of records. Many archives refer to accessioning as a preliminary description of the record (content, context, structure) and not strictly just a physical and legal transfer. Many times this will be the only level of description that the archives will be able to do because archive collections are indefinite and the resources available are limited. It is during this transfer process that while the records are carefully documented, they are further classified to ensure proper arrangements and levels of accessibility are determined, that is should these be made public or reserved for private use only.
At the University of the West Indies Archives (UWI Archives) the creator of the record submits paperwork to the Archives indicating which records they would like to transfer and why. The paperwork includes a form containing the agreement to transfer records to the Archives, including a reference to the relevant records. It is now the job of the University Archivist and accessioning staff to confirm that these records (that are of enduring value) should be transferred to UWI Archives from the custody of the record’s creator, and whether or not they should be made available for public use. Once the paperwork has been verified and approved, the records may be physically transferred to the UWI Archives.
Upon arrival, an assessment is carried out and some boxes of records are quarantined and treated for preservation issues. Records are then processed, organized and shelved in the assigned storage area. Overtime the searchable Regional Archives Online Database is updated to reflect these new records, this update is done after the completion of all related archival processes.
submitted by Vanessa Lyons | edited by KDT & SG Archives Assistant UWI Archives UWI Archives