Accession Best Practices

Chaos –> Order recently featured a great post, “What We Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Accessioning“, by Rachel Searcy.  The post argues for the importance of thoroughly documenting accession work and the need for archivists to talk more broadly about accession practices.

I couldn’t agree more.  One of the long term projects I’m working on right now involves cleaning up accession files and linking that information to fonds and sous fonds level descriptions.  A lot of provenance, historical biographical, and other contextual information can be captured in quality accession records.

The lack of field wide accessioning guidelines was touched on during the Roundtable on the Future of RAD.  The Canadian archival field has detailed guidelines on how to physically describe a postage stamp but uniform accession practices do not exist.  Each institution has it’s on way of accepting donations and integrating those donations into their collections. But there is a need to establish broad guidelines for what metadata should be captured during accession work. No one wants to guess where collections came from and documenting contextual information and be extremely helpful to future staff and researchers.

Similarly, there is a question of how and if  accession records should be linked to broader collection descriptions.  Should the metadata captured in accession records be available to researchers? Should it be redacted?  Should be made available only to staff or upon request? I’m not sure there’s a one-size fits all answer to these questions.  But they are definitely worth thinking about and considering how accession practices impact access.