Posted by: stackedfivehigh | September 11, 2010

File organization and records management

I finished my survey quickly once I stopped taking too many notes.  Once I wrapped that up, I moved on to reorganization.  After brief consideration, I’m organizing the files chronologically with a subseries or two for personal files and committee files that span many years.

I had always thought that chronological sequencing was the most logical for all things historic.  I hadn’t really given it that much thought, but it made sense.  It’s history, it should go in sequence by when it happened.  After handling a few manuscript collections, I’ve learned that’s just not the case.  Sure, there are times when chronology is best, but more often than not grouping files by category is the most useful for future referencing. Most researchers will want everything on a certain subject, not everything that happened in July of a certain year.

Sometimes you have no choice – like in this collection, when the person who made the files maintained them in chronological order.  You really have to admire someone’s sense of organization that leads them to put every single piece of mail from their synagogue neatly into a file, in order by date.  The fact that he organized his life chronologically led me to maintain that order, though it will be more difficult to use the files for research.

In other news, I’m focused on my records management class which started a few weeks before my other classes.  My absolutely fantastic professor was willing to give me some assignments early, so I’ve been working ahead.

I’m completely fascinated by the records management vs. archiving mindsets.  As my professor neatly summarized it “The famous unattributed records management quote, “It’s generally not the records you don’t have that gets one into trouble…” just rankles archivists to no end”.  For myself, I can see the need to apply a value to records,  decide how long they will be kept, and actually dispose of them at a certain point. This is very important to all organizations and the key role of records management.  At the same time, part of me follows a more archival mindset of ‘but what if someone needs it later’ – you never know what will have research value at a later date.

We’ll see as the class goes on if I start leaning more one way or the other.



  1. Records management sounds fascinating. I have my 4th archival class on Tuesday, but I’m already sidetracked by the records management side of things. Unfortunately, we don’t have any specific classes on the subject available at my school.

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