Frequently asked questions

What happens to the stuff I send to the archives?

Part II. Initial Processing and Physical Arrangement

Shortly after materials arrive at the archives (as discussed in Part I. Sending Materials to the Archives), the material will undergo a physical arrangement process. This includes the re-boxing and foldering of material in order to help make it easier to access on an on-going basis as well as help to preserve the items in sturdier, archival quality containers. This is also a time for the archivist to weed out any unnecessary duplicate items or unrelated materials.

The level of arrangement that is needed for the collection is often left up to the archivist. Arrangement can include putting loose materials into new folders or re-filing into existing folders, grouping folders on a similar topic into a series, and working with individual documents within a folder. Some prefer an item level arrangement, which places each individual document within each folder in a prescribed order (e.g. chronological, alphabetical, etc.). However, another option is to leave the folders and material in the folders in the same order as they arrived. This saves the archivist time and leaves the materials in the original order that the office or individual created.

The initial processing and arrangement of materials can sometimes save space by reducing the total number of boxes needed to store the collection, but not always.

Re-boxing before and after.
The arrangement process did not lessen the number of boxes needed to house the collection.

The MPLP method for archival processing states materials should retain their original order at the folder level. It prefers using the existing folders unless the folder is badly worn or damaged. It also does not see the need for the archivist to spend the time sorting individual documents within folders or removing staples or fasteners. This practice was primarily used to help preserve the records from tears and rust from the metal materials; however in a climate controlled environment rust is less of a preservation issue.

Re-foldering before and after.
All of the original folders were replaced during the arrangement process, however staples, paper clips and binders were left on the materials. The folders represent the original order of the materials.

Part III will look at the description phase that helps researchers learn more about the material.