Evaluation Strategy for Building Collections

A guide for determining what is and what is not appropriate for your collection

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Initial Considerations

  • It is not possible to adequately care for everything that people will offer.
  • There may be other archives in your network that are better suited to hold some items.
  • Items in your collection should align with your mission and/or vision statement.

General Items to Exclude

  • No financial records, bills, or items with Social Security numbers.
  • Widely published materials (e.g. magazines, books, newspapers) can often be found online.
  • Hard to store formats (e.g. perishable food, large paintings) may not be safe or appropriate.

Evaluation Strategy Tips

  • Collect as much information about the items as possible, whether digital or physical.
  • Develop a collection development policy that helps donors understand how items are appraised.
  • Consult with local experts (historians, anthropologists, etc.) who are able to help authenticate items.

Questions about Evaluating Artifacts? Just ask R.U.S.S.

  • Relationship: How is this item connected to others materials in this collection?
  • Uniqueness: Can the item be easily found in other collections?
  • Significance: What is the source of the item and what timeframe does it cover?
  • Serviceability: How usable is the item for research and functional for display?