This is where such organizations generally falter.
In terms of their collecting, they accept what comes to them, from donors who show up and offer fabulous things. They also have taken in materials that anonymous givers drop on their doorsteps. (It is the archival equivalent of ringing a doorbell and running.) Just like most other local organization I encounter, their collecting has been relatively passive and without clear direction. To me, this is an obvious problem. This is the THING. This is the next step to making your organization a fabulous one.
Then I hear this from someone in the meeting: "We should look at the condition of materials and get rid of things that are in bad shape."
If I could play sound effects within the blog, I would play that noise you would hear on the Price is Right when someone spins the wheel and goes over the limit. The sound of "You failed!" I wanted to yell, "Don't do it!" I didn't do that. I can sometimes be more delicate about things. BUT I AM yelling it here.
|Go through your materials and figure out |
their focus and informational worth
CONDITION AIN'T THE THING!!!
If an original copy of the Declaration of Independence was in poor condition would you throw it away? I always use the Declaration of Independence as an example for my students because we all understand its importance. Of course you wouldn't throw it away!
That one item sitting at the bottom of a trunk all faded and torn and practically illegible may be the only item in the whole world with that particular information on it. Do not use its condition as the sole means for determining its worth, for goodness sakes!
- Figure out what you have. Perform an archives survey. (Note if any of the material is in bad condition because you may want to fix that later.)
- Figure out what you want to have. Write it all down in a collection development policy.
- Figure out if what you want is practical to get and fits within your collection focus.
- Figure out your future direction for growth and use. This is the THING! and those are the steps to get here.
Do not jump to the last step before you do the others. The THING is knowing who you are, why you exist, and where you are going. Pay attention to the whole package before you focus on the parts. Your institution is a shell waiting to tell a story. Figure out the basic focus of the story and then build a collection to tell it and flesh it out.
Ding, Ding, Ding!!!! Winner!