Archives Appraisal Guidelines for Records

Policy No: 012
Approval Date: 11/5/03
Historical Notes:


The New Mexico State University Library will use the procedures below which are adapted from the following sources:

    • Ham, F. Gerald. Library
Selecting and Appraising Archives and Manuscripts.
    Society of American Archivists Fundamental Series.Society of American Archivists. Chicago, 1993. Pp. 108.
    • Huskamp-Peterson, Trudy, Peterson, Gary.
Archives and Manuscripts: Law
    Society of American Archivists Basic Manual Series. Chicago, 1985.



Section I

Function: Evaluate the Importance of the Record's Original Use

  1. Who made the record and for what purpose?
  2. What level of policy-making and executive direction in the administrative hierarchy is the office or person?
  3. What are the significant functions of the organizational unit or person that created the records?
  4. What records are most closely related to and best document significant functions?
    1. Significance of the records creator's position in the organizational hierarchy.
    2. Significance of the records creator's functions.
    3. Significance of the records themselves.

Section II

Content Examination: Informational Significance of the Record

  1. How significant are the subjects or topics documented in the records as defined through the repository acquisition policy?
  2. How well do the records document those subjects?
    1. Significance of the subject.
    2. The quality of the documentation.
      1. Completeness of the record.
      2. Time span offered.
      3. The general quality of information.

Section III

Context Examination: Significance of the Record in Relation to Other Documentary Sources

  1. How unique is the physical record; is it duplicated in the creating agency or elsewhere?
  2. If the record exists in several forms, is there a preferred form of retention?
  3. How unique is the information in the record and how does it compare in scope and quality with the information found in related or other sources?
  4. Is the record an acceptable substitute for a preferred record that is not available for retention?
  5. Can the information in the record be linked with other records so that it is more usefully enhanced?
  6. How scarce is the documentation on a subject?
    1. Record duplication.
    2. The preferred format of the record
    3. Uniqueness of information
    4. Record substitution
    5. Record linkage
    6. Scarcity of the records

Section IV

Accessibility and Use:

  1. How does the record meet the information needs and interests of various user groups served by the NMSU Library?
  2. What is the potential utility of the record based on past and present research use?
  3. What are the physical, intellectual, or legal barriers to making the record accessible?
    1. NMSU library clientele?
    2. Past and projected use? Exhibits?
    3. Accessibility of the records and information?

Section V

Cost-Benefits: Value of Information vs. Cost of Preserving

  1. What are the costs of identifying, appraising, and accessioning the records?
  2. What are the costs of processing the acquisition to an affordable level?
  3. What are the costs for affordable preservation treatment?
  4. What are the costs for housing the original records or reducing their bulk by microfilming or sampling?

Section VI

Selecting Records for Intrinsic Value:

  1. The physical form may be subject to study if the records provide meaningful documentation or significant examples of the form.
  2. Artistic or aesthetic quality.
  3. Usually curious or uniqueness of the record or its physical features.
  4. Records exhibiting a certain age or age provide a quality of uniqueness.
  5. Useful value in constructing exhibits.
  6. Authenticity, date or author, or still another characteristic that is significant and ascertainable by physical examination.
  7. Public interest because of and not limited to direct association with historically significant, or perhaps famous people, places, things and events, and other issues.
  8. Documentation of an institution, an agency, or legal basis.
  9. Documentation of policy making at the highest or executive levels when a policy has an effect throughout that certain organization, institution, or agency.

Section VII

Appraisal of Special Classes of Records:

Electronic or Machine-Readable Records (MRR):

  1. Data are at a micro-level rather than in summary form.
  2. Will be used for statistical analysis or searched on a data element or accessed on a case-by-case analysis.
  3. Can be linked to other machine-readable files or databases.
  4. Will be of high interest to professionals in the fields where automated techniques are used to gather research.
  5. Retaining information in machine-readable form is more cost-effective than information being stored on paper or microfilm.
  6. The entire information system should be appraised as a single entity or item.
  7. Retaining information in a machine-readable form improves access, retrieval, and manipulation for users.
  8. Personal identifiers can be removed to access records that may have been closed.

Still Photographs, Moving Images, Sound Records, Graphic Records, Combinations of Sound and Visual Records-Some Electronic:

    1. Black and white still photographs: the camera negative and a first-generation print.
    2. Color transparencies (slides): the original transparency and one copy.
    3. Motion picture film: the original negative or color original with a separate soundtrack, a master positive or duplicate negative and optical soundtrack, and a projection print or videocassette copy.
    4. Videotape: the original recording and one copy.
    5. Audio recording discs: the master tape, matrix or stamper, and one disc.
    6. Audio tape recordings: the original record and one copy.

Technical Considerations:

    1. Is the medium stable in its current form?
    2. When the information in the record needs to be transferred to a more stable medium for preservation and access, can this transfer be done satisfactorily?
    3. Will the technical quality of the information remain useful after several information transfers?
    4. What generation of the record is preferred for preservation?
    5. What is the best form of information?
    6. Is the secondary or background information in visual records of value?