Summer 2009



LIS 441-20: Appraisal of Archives and Manuscripts

Class Hours: Saturday, 9am.-4pm.

Instructor: Jeannette A. Bastian

Office Hours: By appointment, phone and email: 617-521-2808;


Course Description: This course examines archival appraisal, an archivist’s most critical task.  Through appraisal,  archivists  determine which records have continuing value for long-term preservation. Appraisal of records not only affects all other archival functions but significantly impacts which part of the human documentary record will be preserved as part of society’s collective memory.


GSLIS Student Learning Outcomes

Outcome #7: Apply relevant research studies to tasks requiring problem solving and critical thinking.

Outcome #9: Respond to diversity among individuals and communities through policies, collections and services

Additional Course Outcomes:

1.     Students understand the history and basic theories of archival appraisal

2.     Students understand the methodologies and techniques of archival appraisal

3.     Through practical exercises, students can evaluate appraisal and acquisition policies.


Students must satisfactorily meet all the requirements described in the syllabus. Extenuating circumstances or other valid reasons for not making up the course assignments will be considered by the instructor, but the student will be required to provide evidence of the severity of the circumstances preventing the student from completing the assignments. Unexcused late submissions of assignments will lead to a half reduction in your grade each day the assignment is late.


The Academic Support Center (ASC) at

 offers writing tutors and will help students with learning challenges. Reasonable accommodations will be provided for students with documented physical, sensory, systemic, cognitive learning and psychiatric disabilities.  If you have a disability and anticipate that you will need a reasonable accommodation in this class, it is important that you contact the Director of the Academic Support Center at 617-521-2471 early in the semester.  Students with disabilities are also encouraged to contact their instructors to discuss their individual needs for accommodations. 


Students should be aware that Simmons follows a College Honor Code.  It can be found at




Course Requirements:


1. Appraisal Report:  The objective of this assignment is to analyze and evaluate the appraisal or selection policy of a digital or digitized collection at an archives or special collections site.  Selecting items for a web exhibit or online collections suggests a secondary appraisal for materials that the archives has already appraised for retention.  How do archives make this secondary appraisal decision, is it consistent, does it follow the institutions policy, does it follow best practices or generally accepted guidelines? You will evaluate the collection and the policies, email appropriate staff with questions if necessary, read in the appropriate literature and visit a  ‘digital practices’ website  site to gain an understanding of developing best practice in digital appraisal. Write a 5-8 page double –spaced paper and be prepared to present your analysis in class. The paper will address the following:


·      Description of the institution and the institution’s collection.

·      Evaluation of the institution’s policy and/or practice based on standard archival and records practice.

·      Does the site reflect the institution’s policy?

·      Does the site reflect the archival collections of the institution? What does its leave out that could be significant?

·      Does the site reflect recommended ‘best practices’? Discuss in relationship to accepted ‘best practice’ as described in one of the sites below.

·      Propose ways that the "success" of the policy and practice could be measured or evaluated.

Digital ‘Best Practices’ can be found at the following sites.  There may also be others out there that you can consult.





Writing and footnoting style must adhere to a standard citation system such as APA or Chicago Manual of Style.


2.  Group Reports: Due Dates As Assigned in Syllabus.  Groups will be assigned to investigate and conduct part of a class session on one of the following three appraisal strategies.


Documentation Strategy  

Electronic Records/ Records Continuum 


Presentations may be power-point or web presentations. All presentations must include the following:

·      Discussion of the appraisal strategy and how it works?

·      Key proponents of this strategy?  A review and discussion of their writings.

·      Advantages and disadvantages of this strategy

·      Your  critical assessment

·      Questions for the class discussion


3. Response Papers: Posted to the wiki the day before each class. 

Write a one page (approximately 300-350 word) response paper on any aspect of the readings assigned for that week. Post it on the class wiki.

Do not summarize the readings but give your thoughts on them and raise any questions you may have.  End your paper with one question for class discussion. Response papers must be posted on the wiki by Friday noon.



            Class Participation and Response Papers: 33%

            Group Project: 33%

            Appraisal Paper: 34%



Richard J. Cox, No Innocent Deposits; Forming Archives by Rethinking Appraisal (Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004).




June 13. An Appraisal Mindset. Basic Definitions, History of Appraisal, Role of Records Management.


Required Readings:

Richard J. Cox, No Innocent Deposits; Forming Archives by Rethinking Appraisal (Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004). Chapter 9  (p.231-258).


Terry Cook, "What is Past is Prologue: A History of Archival Ideas Since 1898, and the Future Paradigm Shift," Archivaria 43 (Spring 1997): 17-63.

 Nancy E. Peace, "Deciding What to Save: Fifty Years of Theory and Practice," in Archival Choices: Managing the Historical Record in an Age of Abundance, ed. Nancy E. Peace (Lexington: D.C. Heath, 1984), pp. 1-18.

Case Studies in class:

·      Ohio Penitentiary Records

·      Susan Steinwall, “Appraisal and the FBI files case: for whom do archivists retain records?”  American Archivist, v. 49 (Winter 1986) p. 52-63

·      James Gregory Bradsher, “The FBI Records Appraisal” Archival Issues,    25, nos. 1 and 2 (2000):101-118.



June 20. Functional Analysis, Intrinsic Value, Reappraisal and Deaccessioning


Required Readings:

Terry Cook, "Mind Over Matter: Towards A New Theory of Archival Appraisal," in Barbara L. Craig, ed., The Archival Imagination: Essays in Honour of Hugh A. Taylor (Ottawa: Association of Canadian Archivists, 1992), pp. 38-70.


F. Gerald Ham, Selecting and Appraising Archives and Manuscripts, 15-24; 51-65.


Leonard Rapport, “No Grandfather Clause: Reappraising Accessioned Records,” American Archivist 44 (Spring 1981): 143-150.


Karen Benedict, “Invitation to a Bonfire: Reappraisal and Deaccessioning of Records as Collection Management Tools in an Archives – A Reply to Leonard Rapport, American Archivist 47 ( Winter 1984): 43-49.


Case Studies:

Jeremy Brett, “A Case Study of the Web-Site Appraisal Process as Applied to State Government Agency Web Sites in Wisconsin, “ Archival Issues, 27 (2) (2002): 99-110.

Helmut M. Knies, “Reappraising and Reaccessioning Wisconsin State Government Records: An Agency-Wide Approach,” Archival Issues, 30 (1) 2006, 35-44.


In Class:  NARA Guidelines for Intrinsic Value



June 27. Collecting – Policies -– Building Community and Identity - Value and Significance


Required Readings:

Noriega, Chon A. "Preservation Matters." Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies 30, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 1-20.

Richard J. Cox, No Innocent Deposits; Forming Archives by Rethinking Appraisal (Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004), chapters. 1 and 2.


Andrew Flinn, “Community Histories, Community Archives: Some Opportunities and Challenges,” Journal of the Society of Archivists, 28 (October, 2007): 151-176.


Verne Harris, “Contesting Remembering and Forgetting: The Archive of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission,”  in his Archives and Justice, A South African Perspective (Chicago: SAA, 2007): 289-304.


Faye Phillips, "Developing Collecting Policies for Manuscript Collections," American Archivist 47 (Winter 1984): 30-42.


Case Studies:

Julie Herrada, “Letters to the Unabomber: A Case Study and Some Reflections,” Archival

Issues 28 (1) (2003-2004): 35-46.

Diane E. Kaplan, "The Stanley Milgram Papers: A Case Study on Appraisal of and

Access to Confidential Data Files." American Archivist 59, no. 3 (Summer 1996



July 4. Holiday



July 11. Appraisal Models: Documentation Strategy, Macroappraisal. 


Required Readings:

Helen W. Samuels, “Who Controls the Past,” American Archivist 49 (Spring 1986):109-24.


Timothy L. Ericson, “ ‘To Approximate June Pasture’, The Documentation Strategy in the Real World,” Archival Issues 22:1 ( 1997): 5-20


Terry Cook, “Macro-appraisal and Functional Analysis: Documenting Governance Rather than Government,” Journal of the Society of Archivists, 25 (1), (2004) : 5-18.


Adrian Cunningham and Robyn Oswald, “Some Functions are More Equal than Others: The Development of a Macroappraisal Strategy for the National Archives of Australia”, Archival Science 5 (Dec. 2005): 163-184.


Case Studies:

Colleen McFarland, “Documenting Teaching and Learning: Practices, Attitudes, and

Opportunities in College and University Archives,” Archival Issues, 29 no. 1 (2005): 19


T. Z. Laver (2003). “In a class by themselves: Faculty papers at research university

archives and manuscript repositories”. American Archivist, 66 (Spring/Summer 2003),




July 18.  Appraisal Models: Electronic Records, Non-Textual Records. Sampling, Minnesota Method.


Required Readings

Terry Cook, “Byte-ing off what you can chew: electronic records strategies for small archival institutions,” Archifacts, April 2004, 1-20.


Joanna Sassoon, Beyond chip monks and paper tigers: towards a new culture of archival format specialists, Archival Science, 7 (July 2007), 133-145.


Mary Ide and Leah Weisse, “Developing Preservation Appraisal Criteria for a Public Broadcasting Station,” The Moving Image 3.1 (2003) 146-157,


Mark Greene, “’The Surest Proof’: A Utilitarian Approach to Appraisal,” Archivaria 45 (Spring 1998): 127-69.


Case Studies:

Tom Hyry, Diane Kaplan and Christine Weideman, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t”: Assessing the Value of Faculty Papers and Defining a Collecting Policy,”  American Archivist 65 (Spring/Summer  2002): 56-69.

Nancy Deromedi, “Personal Faculty Web site: Exploring Archival Issues and Digital Convergence,” Archival Issues, 29 no. 1 (2005): 9-18


July 25. The Ethics of Appraisal. Appraisal Reports Due


Required Readings

Adrian Cunningham, “Beyond the Pale? The 'Flinty' Relationship between Archivists Who Collect the Private Records of Individuals and the Rest of the Archival Profession,” Archives and Manuscripts 24 (May 1996): 20-26.


Verne Harris, “Postmodernism and Archival Appraisal: Seven Theses,” in his  Archives and Justice, A South African Perspective (Chicago: SAA, 2007);101-105.

Randall C. Jimerson, “Archives for All: Professional Responsibility and Social  Justice,” American Archivist 70 (Fall/Winter 2007): 252-281.

Case Studies:

Tamar G. Chute and Ellen D. Swain, “Navigating Ambiguous Waters: Providing Access

to Student Records in the University Archives,” American Archivist  67 (Fall/Winter

2004): 212-233.

Christopher J. Prom and Ellen D. Swain, “From the College Democrats to the Falling

Illini: Identifying, Appraising and Capturing Student Organizational Websites,

American Archivist ( Fall/Winter 2007): 344-363ase Studies:


Presentations  - Appraisal Reports