A few basic, simplified definitions*
fonds aggregation of archival material (manuscripts, records, photographs, maps, machine readable) from a single source. The important point is simply that material received from different sources constitutes separate fonds while all the material from the same source constitutes a single fonds.
Respect des fonds grouping, without mixing them with others, the archival material of every kind coming from a single source and preserving or restoring, wherever possible, the order in which the creating agency or person kept the material.
Provenance refers to the individual, group, or organization that originally created or received the items in a collection, and to the items’ subsequent chain of custody.
Primary value the original value for the creator for their administrative, fiscal and operating uses.
Secondary (historical) value the lasting (historical) value of archival material after it is no longer in current use by the original creator.
Evidential value the evidence the material contains of the organization and functioning of the agency or individual who produced them.
Informational value the factual information the material contains about the persons, corporate bodies, things, problems, conditions and the like , with which the agency or person dealt.
Appraisal exercising judgement to decide whether to retain materials based on their evidential and informational values.
Custodial History describes the history of the custody of the records after they left the custody of the creator. This information is included so that users can judge the records’ authenticity and reliability.
*Archival science had generated some technical terms which have specific meaning or relevance. Volunteers are sometimes intimidated by the extensive, detailed and controversial literature dealing the use and application of these terms. I will be using simple English but offer these basic and simplified definitions for any volunteers reading some of the scientific archival literature.
The Archives & Library collects, preserves, and makes available historical records (Archives) and published materials (Library).
The facility operates under the general direction of the Board which will appoint volunteers with expertise to coordinate specific aspects of the work (office management, archives, library, genealogy, computer/webmaster, records management). Together these coordinators will form an Archives and Library Committee accountable to the Board. The principal function of the Archives and Library Committee is to ensure continuity of the Archives and Library operation, with the understanding that its collections were acquired with the intention that they be maintained in perpetuity.
The Archives includes unique materials which cannot be replaced if lost. It is important that the Archives Coordinator understand the significance of the basic principles of the archival profession (Provenance and Respect des fonds). The Archives Coordinator should possess at least a basic educational experience in archival practices.
The Library consists of published materials, that is, material produced in multiple copies for distribution to the public. Library materials may be rare, but are not usually unique. The library Coordinator should have some education in library and information studies, in order to maintain an orderly, efficient, and accessible library in accordance with professional standards.
III. Archives Acquisition Policy
The Archives contains records of organizations, congregations, and individuals. The Archives Coordinator, volunteers, Board members, and other active members of the MHSA should endeavour to maintain contacts among different branches of the Mennonite faith, as well as with other Anabaptists in order to continue expanding the collection. The geographical focus of the collection is Alberta.
The Archives Coordinator should have sufficient knowledge of history and of Mennonite culture in order to appraise (assess archival significance) of materials offered for the collection.
The MSHA does not accept long-term loans of materials. It is important that the donor understand that the donations become the property of the MHSA, which has the right to return to the donor or destroy materials deemed to be outside the mandate of the Archives. Clarity should be obtained as to whether such materials should be destroyed or returned to the donor.
A monetary appraisal can be made, and a receipt issued for income tax purposes, if requested by the donor. Professional appraisals by members of the National Archival Appraisal Board, or antique book dealers or other qualified professionals are needed for materials whose estimated value exceeds the limit allowed by Revenue Canada ($250.00 in 2013) for materials not professional assessed. Professional appraisers are normally hired at the expense of the donor.
- Library Acquisitions/Discard Policy
Generally, one copy of books, periodicals, published audio-visual materials, and published electronic records produced by, for, or about Mennonites and other Anabaptists of Alberta and their ancestors are acquired. The materials are non-circulating, but are available for research and copying by visitors to the Archives and Library.
Key library documents may be purchased, but generally acquisition of library items will be through donation.
Library materials are classified using a modified Library of Congress system, and catalogued into a database available on the MHSA website.
Rare or fragile library items are stored in the Archives and Library vault.
When more than one copy of any library item is available, the Library will set aside a second copy for possible future use if a lending library or a subsidiary library in another Alberta centre is established. Surplus copies of any publication will be (1) offered in exchange with other Mennonite libraries, (2) offered for charitable purposes, (3) offered for sale to volunteers and the public for nominal amounts, or (4) destroyed.
Items of sacred scripture that are damaged or cannot be sold or given away will be destroyed by burning in a private, solemn ceremony.
The immediate procedures to be followed by the person receiving a donation of archival or library materials includes the following:
-assign an accession number in the order in which material is received.
-complete the Archival Accessions Log
-complete the Accession Record form.
-provide relevant provenance procedure – who created the material. If the donor is not the creator indicate how he or she got the material.
-Where possible, compete and have the donor sign the Deed of Gift form.
An appraisal of potential archival or library accessions by the Archives Coordinator or Library Coordinator is recommended where there is uncertainty whether all or some of the material is appropriate for retention by the MHSA Archives and Library. The appraisal is usually done before the records are deposited at the Archives, but there will be times when it is more practical to do the assessment after the records are deposited.
When appropriate, send a letter acknowledging and thanking the donor for donated material.
Donors may also be encouraged to make a monetary contribution to help pay for the cost of processing and preserving the records.
- Preliminary processing of archival material
Remove items that would cause damage (e.g. metal paper clips, rusty staples, post-it notes, “Acco” fasteners, three ring binders)), or are unnecessary to the collection, ( e.g. redundant envelopes, duplicate copies, blank forms).
Flatten any folded or wrinkled items.
Remove and cross reference any items that need to be/can be removed for storage separately, such as photographs, negatives, bound books, or electronic media.
Prepare a preliminary Review of Accession.
Place in archival folders and boxes marking each with the accession number for temporary storage awaiting complete processing.
VII. Arranging archival records and manuscripts
Two fundamental principles of archival practice.
-Arrange material according to the source. (Provenance). All material (manuscripts, records, maps, photos, drawings, plans etc.) from the same source are arranged together, at least on paper. Separation sheets should be inserted if, for reasons of size, unique preservation requirements or other reasons, items are stored separately from other materials in the collection or fonds.
-Preserve or restore the arrangement established by the creator of the material. (Respect des fonds).
If it is impractical or impossible to determine the order in which archival material was arranged by the person or agency which created it, an arrangement deemed to be most helpful for future users may be adopted. (e.g. chronological, by subject, by correspondent, or a combination of these.)
Once arranged, material is placed in archival folders marked with the accession number and the document or file title and in archival boxes marked with the accession number and the name of the fonds.
VIII. Describing archival material
There are often two distinct stages in the work of describing archival material. The first involves a general description of the entire collection or fonds. There are differences in the process and the information gathered to describe agency or institutional records and personal records. The second stage applies mainly to larger collections and involves the preparation of more detailed finding aids.
General description of the records of an agency or institution.
Begin with the name of the creating agency or institution collection, dates of the collection, its linear extent or size, and the type of items included (manuscripts, photographs, maps, machine readable material) of items included.
Prepare an administrative history of the agency or institution which should include as much of the following information as possible.
– official name of the agency or institution or corporate body
-concise history of the agency or institution which created the material
-its function and or purpose
-dates of the agency’s or institution’s existence
-predecessor or successor bodies
-any other information that will place the material described in context
history of the custody of the material. If unknown state that.
-general information about the content, nature and scope of the material
-a description of the arrangement
-general subject matter of the material.
-Indicate whether the material was created by the donor organization. If not, outline the custodial history of the material.
-provide information related to the general content,nature and scope of the material
General description of archival material created by an individual or family
-Begin with the name of the individual, the dates of the material, its linear extent or size, and the type of items included(manuscripts, records, photographs, maps, machine readable material etc.)
-Prepare a biographical sketch of the person or family responsible for the creation of the material.
-Include significant information about the person’s, or family’s life and activities to provide contextual information for the material being described.
-Indicate whether the material was created by the donor. If not, outline the custodial history of the material.
-provide information related to the general content, nature and scope of the material.
Detailed descriptions of material in larger collections
-Large collections of archival material often come with detailed finding aids prepared by and for the use of the creating agency or individual. In such cases it is necessary to check whether those finding aids are adequate for archival references and research.
-Most detailed finding aids do not go beyond a listing of file titles, but more detailed indexing might be appropriate for frequently used material such as often consulted genealogical data.
-The Archives and Library accepts for permanent retention photographs of historical value and may also obtain and computer-scan loaned photographs. Photographs of persons whose names and lives, work and importance are not known have very little historical value. Some might, however, be important if they show, for example, distinctive Mennonite clothing or hair styles. In addition to the name and significance of those in the photograph the following date, if available, should be noted: date, location, occasion, significance, name of the photographer.
-Some single photographs are received whereas most come as part of a larger collection. Often a general description of a larger collection is sufficient, but detailed listings of all photographs in a significant collection can be very helpful.
-If the photographs are part of a larger collection of material, they should be described and, if possible, filed and preserved with the other records of that collection of fond. Separation sheet should be inserted if the photographs a preserved separately for other material in the same fond.
-When processing photographs, note the accession number in pencil on the back of each photograph and, where appropriate, a cross reference or, if it is part of a larger collection for which a list has been prepared, the listing number.
-Do not write on the front of the photograph, and only note accession and reference numbers in soft pencil on the back. Do not use labels or post-it notes on the back of the photograph.
- Preservation Policies
Processed archival materials and rare or fragile library materials are kept in the vault. The door to the vault will be kept closed at all times. The temperature and humidity within the vault should not be allowed to fluctuate, and the thermohygrometer in the vault should be checked regularly.
Those handling archival materials and rare tools are expected to work with clean hands, not lick their fingers when turning pages, use pencils rather than pens for taking notes, and have no food or drink on the same table as the materials. Those handling photographs, microfilm, and works of art are expected to wear cotton handling gloves or learn to handle the materials without touching the emulsion surface.
- Security Policies
Only the Archives Coordinator and regular volunteers may access the vault or Archives and Library storage areas.
The Office Management Coordinator will maintain a record of the number of keys to the office and storage areas, and who possesses them.
The Office Management Coordinator will maintain a record of all passwords government the MHSA software. No software will be installed without the authorization of the Webmaster.
No library or archival materials may be removed from the premises. However, materials may be copied, subject to the provisions of the Copyright Act, at no charge, or for a nominal fee to cover the cost of copying.
Researchers who wish to use the Archives must register information about their identity, their research affiliation (if any) and the focus of their research. This will aid the volunteer in guiding them to the most useful finding aids, fonds, and series.
No fees are associated with on-site use of Archival or Library materials, although donations are always welcome and paying for an MHSA membership offers an element of moral support to the MHSA for it’s work.
Photocopying of archival materials must only be done by the Archives and Library volunteers (fee of .25 per page is suggested), and must abide by Canadian Copyright law and any conditions that the Creator/Donor has placed onto the specified records.