Time to add to your archive

Time to add to your archive? Accession it.

Carleen Dekarski Managing archives

Now that you have selected the material in an intake (deposit) to bring into the archive it is now a good time to provide an accession number. In practice, as I often have not had a chance to appraise the material prior the decision to bring it in to the archive, I generally provide an accession number when it enters my processing room. This is so I can track its owner, location in the processing room and general idea of condition, contents and volume e.g. 3 records boxes of letters, 1 records box of photographs etc. In any case, as you take it into the processing room and prior to the arrangement and description of the materials an accession number should be in place.

What is an accession number?

It is the identifying number that will permanently move with the material and serves to identify all the important information about what it contains, where it came from etc.

I operate an accession register which is a simple spreadsheet that contains the core information about the collection. The numbering system you use is up to you but in action the most used system is taking the year the item entered the collection and the sequence it was received in. For example, a collection taken in 2016 and it was the 12th in take for the year will have an accession number running through the spreadsheet as 2016-012. There are 120 items in the collection and number 3 item arranged and described would have the accession and item number assigned as e.g. 2016-012-003. I choose to add the addition zeros e.g. 012 or 003 as this lists my spreadsheets in a nicely running numerical order in my filing system. I never expect to take in over 999 intakes (deposits) in a year.

What do I capture on the accession register?

Date taken in, Received from who and their contact details, date ranges, general description of contents contained in the deposit, volume of records, general condition e.g. poor, excellent, isolation required, access conditions, location (in the processing room). Finally I have a location number for when I have finished processing the intake so I have a general idea where the items are located on the archive shelves. If there are multiple locations then I reference the document number that records all the items in the intake and all locations.

Write this accession number in pencil on the boxes that contain the intake. I even have areas partitioned in the processing room. I have found this makes it easier when searching for an accession that has not yet been processed. If I know it is in Sector 1 or Trolley A then this saves a lot of time and lifting of boxes.

Why do I use a register?

Some archives use a new form for each new accession. I find the accession register (being a simple spreadsheet) means I can quickly and easily refer to all deposits and then get the more detailed accession form that records far more detailed information about every single item arranged and described. More on this in the next article.

Accession numbers are essential but very simple to instigate. If you have any questions about this process please feel free to message me I will attempt to impart the working knowledge that I have gained. Happy archiving.

Recognition: Clock by Ales Krivec, licensed under Creative Commons Zero, published with thanks from www.arcavee.com

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