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Homepage > Heritage and archives > About the archives service > Policies > Archive Service Appraisal and Disposal Policy

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Archive Service Appraisal and Disposal Policy

1. Introduction

1.1

This Appraisal and Disposal Policy has been drawn up in accordance with best practice as exemplified in The National ArchivesAppraisal Policy (2012) and Deaccessioning and Disposal (2015). It operates in conjunction with the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service’sCollections Development Policy and Strategy (revised 2013) and is supported by in-house appraisal guidelines for specific collection types. The policy and guidelines are intended to aid, rather than replace, the professional judgement of archivists, who operate according to the Archives and Records Association Code of Conduct, and to offer ethical guidance. Disposal decisions will be made according to the table in Appendix I. The Appraisal and Disposal Policy underpins and supports the philosophy of the Joint Archive Service, which has a rich and diverse archival legacy inherited from past generations. Our responsibility is to ensure that this legacy is preserved and made as accessible as possible and that we make proper provision for the preservation of the archives created from the present day.

2. Service Aims

2.1

The aims of the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service are:

  • To ensure that the archives of Staffordshire County Council and the City of Stoke on Trent are preserved for present and future use by their administrations and by the public, and to advise both authorities on archive issues
  • To locate, collect and preserve irreplaceable archive collections relating to the past and present life and work of the people of the County of Staffordshire and the City of Stoke on Trent and to preserve and make accessible the archives of the Diocese of Lichfield, thereby contributing to the national network of archive care
  • To provide and promote high quality services to readers which enable and encourage the use of archive collections held by the Joint Archive Service
  • To build formal and informal partnerships which promote the information, practical and heritage value of archives and which extend their use to the public

3. Context

3.1

The Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service is a multi-repository service, serving the communities of the County of Staffordshire and the City of Stoke on Trent. Its role is not confined to historical, academic or learning communities because archives can be a powerful tool in helping to foster a sense of community, continuity and belonging. They can stimulate an interest and enjoyment in learning about the past at all levels.

3.2

The Archive Service operates within a framework of archive legislation and other legislation which governs record-keeping.

4. Policy Statement

4.1

The Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service seeks to ensure that its archive collections reflect the broadest range of the life and work of the people of Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, past and present.  In addition, the Archive Service has a responsibility to ensure that the archive can be maintained within available resources and is sustainable in the long term. To this end, it is necessary to make decisions about which records to retain. The Appraisal and Disposal Policy supports this by providing a framework for the selection of records, and reappraisal, retrospective appraisal and deaccessioning of existing collections.

4.2

Appraisal is a process of determining which records are of long-term historical value and are worthy of permanent preservation as archives, irrespective of medium.

4.3

Deaccessioning takes place after re-appraisal or retrospective appraisal of existing collections. Records selected for disposal are either returned to the depositor, offered to another suitable repository or destroyed confidentially

4.4

This policy is based on the Appraisal Values set out in Appendix 2 of The National Archive’s Appraisal Policy (2012) and the regulatory framework and principles for deaccessioning and disposal set out in The National Archives’ Deaccessioning and Disposal, guidance for archives (2015).

5. Policy Aims

5.1

To ensure that appraisal and disposal practice is informed by current archival legislation and other legislation relating to the keeping of records.

5.2

To ensure that appraisal and disposal practice supports the aim of the Archive Service to reflect the broadest range of the life and work of the people of Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, past and present, through its archives.

5.3

To assist archivists in selecting records of the highest value in terms of their evidential, administrative or historical importance.

5.4

To assist the Archive Service in managing its available storage capacity and financial resources.

5.5

To promote objective, structured and open decision-making about appraisal and disposal.

6. Method of Appraisal

6.1

The method adopted by the Archive Service is macro-appraisal based on functional analysis.  Macro-appraisal entails the decision to retain, destroy or sample records at series level (or above) rather than assessing individual documents.  This is the most appropriate approach given the available resources.  Functional analysis identifies the functions of organisations and is used to select series of records of high informational value for permanent preservation.

6.2

There will be occasions when this method is inappropriate, for example records of private individuals. It will also be appropriate on occasions to make a more detailed check to weed out duplicates, ephemeral or non-archival records. Archivists should use their professional judgement at all times. Prior to carrying out a reappraisal and retrospective appraisal programme, appraisal guidelines will be developed to assist archivists and added to the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service Cataloguing Manual.

6.3

Archivists must be aware of current archival legislation and any other related legislation which impacts upon record keeping. The Archive Service will ensure that staff training includes legislative changes.

6.4

Archivists should be aware that there are constraints and limits to our implementation of this policy. The agreement of depositors in relation to the appraisal and destruction of records is sought at the time of deposit where possible but there will always be occasions when the Archive Service does not have the permission to destroy records in a deposited collection, particularly for collections deposited some years previously. However there is always the option of returning records to their depositors.

7. Implementation: Appraisal, re-appraisal, retrospective appraisal and deaccessioning

7.1

Key decisions about a collection are taken prior to deposit and accessioning in accordance with the Collecting Policy. However, on first cataloguing a collection, whether soon or several years later, it may become apparent that further appraisal is required. Appraisal and disposal decisions should be taken by archivists in accordance with this policy and the decision tree in Appendix 1. Member approval for disposal is not required at the first cataloguing stage as this represents standard professional practice.

7.2

The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service holds some collections that are known to hold material that does not meet the current selection criteria in the Collecting Policy. It is probable that these collections were not fully appraised on accessioning or cataloguing. Past local government reorganisation has also changed the collecting boundaries since some collections were deposited. The Archive Service will undertake a review of existing holdings and identify collections that require re-appraisal or retrospective appraisal.

7.3

As part of a programme approved by the Archives and Heritage Management Team, the Service will carry out re-appraisal or retrospective appraisal of collections in accordance with the regulatory framework and principles for deaccessioning and disposal set out in The National Archives’ Deaccessioning and Disposal, guidance for archives(2015). The aim will be to weed duplicates, ephemera and records outside the Archive Service’s current collecting criteria. Following re-appraisal or retrospective appraisal a summary list of records proposed for disposal will be presented to the Chair or Vice Chair, as appropriate, of the  Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Joint Archives Committee for approval prior to deaccessioning and disposal as a delegated decision.

7.4

Appraisal decisions and disposal methods must be documented to leave an audit trail and retained as a permanent record in the deposit file for the collection and the Freedom of Information Legislation file. This is a requirement under the Freedom of Information Act, 2000. (See Appendix 1 for template)

8. Implementation: Disposal of Collections

8.1

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service reserves the right to refuse, return or recommend the destruction of any material not deemed to be appropriate for permanent preservation. Such decisions will be made in accordance with the Archive Service’s Collections Development Policy and Strategy (revised 2013)

8.2

The Service may also transfer collections with the agreement of the depositor to other archive or local studies repositories if this is considered to be more appropriate. 

8.3

The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Joint Archives Committee accepts the principle that collections in its ownership will not be sold as stated in the Service’sCollections Development Policy and Strategy (revised 2013).

8.4

These conditions are reiterated in the Terms of Deposit of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service (revised March 2008). 

8.5

Where re-appraisal and retrospective appraisal has taken place, disposal decisions must be approved by the Chair or Vice Chair, as appropriate, of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Joint Archives Committee as a delegated decision.

9. Definitions and Categories

9.1

In the context of this policy, archives are defined as:

“materials created or received by a person, family or organisation, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value contained in them or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of governance, original order and collective control: permanent records”.[1]

9.2

Archives may be in any format including paper, parchment, digital media, microform, photographic or analogue tape. In the case of digital media and analogue tape, the long-term preservation status of such materials is not yet proven. The Archive Service reserves the right to adopt suitable migration policies, if necessary in partnership with other archive bodies, which will ensure the readability and long-term preservation of the information contained in such media.

9.3

The key definitions in the National Archives’ guidance are:

  • Appraisal – the process of deciding whether an item or group of items has continuing value in accordance with the collecting organisation’s mission statement.
  • Deaccessioning - the formal, documented removal of a collection or item from the accession register or custody of the archive service.
  • Reappraisal – a renewed process of appraisal for collections or items which have previously been appraised.
  • Retrospective appraisal – appraisal of collections or items where evidence of previous appraisal to an approved standard is not apparent.
  • Disposal – the physical act of transferring the collection or item from the archive service to another destination. This covers transfer to another repository, return to depositor or donor and as a last resort, destruction. Also called removal.[2]

10 . Review

10.1

This Appraisal and Disposal Policy will be reviewed within five years. It is however a working document and, depending on local circumstances, may be subject to modification, before aformal review.

Reviewed September 2015



[1] The National Archives, ‘Deaccessioning and disposal:  Guidance for archive services’ p 30.

[2] The National Archives, ‘Deaccessioning and disposal:  Guidance for archive services’ p 8.

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