Ordering and describing

If you have an archive, you want it to be accessible for you and your employees. Ordering and describing your archive are the most important actions for making and keeping your archive accessible. This also guarantees more efficient operations for your organisation because you spend less time searching for and locating your archive documents.

Sometimes you need to look up older items for administrative reasons, and sometimes they might even have evidential value in a legal context. Your archive can also be a source of inspiration or reference framework for new artistic projects. So you need your archive for artistic or content-related reasons. There are also both internal and external people who are interested in the history of your organisation and want to use your archive or collection for research. A well-ordered and described archive helps with this.

Ordering your archive

Ordering your archive or collection means giving it a logical structure. To organise your archive properly, you need to classify the documents, items and series in accordance with a pre-defined system, taking the type, content and context of your documents into account. You can achieve a logical structure in analogue form using folders or archive boxes in cabinets and on shelves. In digital form, you can use a folder structure.

Organising all this ensures that:

  • you and your colleagues know where documents need to be stored;
  • documents can be located quickly;
  • related pieces of information are stored together.

Describing your archive

A description creates extra access to your archive, alongside the access provided by ordering it properly. Describing your archive in a catalogue or inventory means you can find the information you need faster.

Providing descriptions ensures that:

  • you maintain an overview of all the information entered by you and your employees;
  • you can use a list, catalogue, database or inventory to quickly find the information that you have saved;
  • you can manage your archive or collection efficiently (e.g. preparatory work for digitisation);
  • you are properly prepared for a possible transfer of archives or collections to an archive institution or cultural heritage organisation.

Author: Florian Daemen (AMVB - Archive and Museum for the Flemish Living in Brussels)

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