Reappraisal Policy

Statement of Purpose

A reappraisal policy is an essential component of the Rockefeller Archive Center’s collecting strategy. It establishes an ongoing mechanism for evaluating and strengthening the integrity and cohesion of its archival collections within the framework of the RAC’s approved Collection Policy.

Guiding Principles

A. The appraisal process constitutes an assessment. While it is the first step towards possible deaccessioning, reappraisal itself does not always lead to deaccessioning.

B. Reappraisal is a systematic and transparent process that takes into account the RAC’s legal, ethical, and relational obligations.

  1. The process is systematic and well-documented to ensure consistency in the decision-making process and responsible practice.
  2. Actions taken during the process are documented and communicated to donating institutions, individual donors, and staff. Transparency in the practice of reappraisal promotes better collection management.
  3. Donors will be informed by staff of any decisions that involve the deaccessioning of their gift. The mission statements and Archive Center policies will be shared with donors so that they understand why their records are not being kept by the institution.

C. Archivists use professional judgment and established practices to address case-by-case reappraisal details including questions or issues that are not addressed specifically in the reappraisal guidelines.

D. This policy applies to materials accessioned into the RAC collections. It does not apply to appraisal decisions made prior to the transfer of materials to the RAC or to materials identified as non-archival by RAC staff prior to or in the course of accessioning.

Rationale for Reappraisal

Reappraisal and potential subsequent deaccessioning is used by the RAC to achieve some of the following objectives:

A. To correct inaccurate appraisals on collections or reassess items that were never appraised.

B. To align accessioned holdings with current collecting policies.

C. To prioritize processing backlogs.

D. To better allocate resources needed for collection maintenance, processing, and preservation.

E. To better assess collection strengths and refine future collecting priorities.

F. To improve overall access to the materials.

Criteria for Considering Collections for Reappraisal

The RAC may choose to survey all of its collections for reappraisal or select particular collections in a more targeted approach. Some things to consider when selecting collections are:

A. Does the collection fit with the RAC’s collection policy?

B. Does the collection have records that are not unique or archival?

C. Is the provenance of the collection known?

D. Is the collection used by researchers or, if it is not currently open for research, does the collection have the potential for research use?

E. Is the collection on deposit?

F. Are there extensive restrictions on the collection?

G. Is the entirety or a significant part of the collection permanently closed?

H. Does another repository have a preponderance of records from this collection’s creator and, if so, would the researcher community be better served if this collection were offered to that repository?

I. Are there clearly established legal commitments that require the RAC to retain restricted materials of the creator?

The Reappraisal Process

A. Background Information

Background information on the collection being reappraised should be compiled prior to beginning the reappraisal process. This should include checking accession records, collection files (including collection assessments and correspondence) and processing assessments in order to review data about the collections, their size, ownership status, and restrictions. Collection surveys, which often contain information about what types of digital records or special formats are present in collections and their scope within the collections, may also be useful. The resulting data is used to answer the reappraisal questions below.

B. Submission Process

Potential reappraisal projects should be submitted to the appraisal archivist. The staff member making the submission should complete the first part of the Reappraisal Form and submit a copy to the Appraisal Archivist. The appraisal archivist will submit the request to the Director of Archives and the President of the Rockefeller Archive Center for approval to begin the reappraisal process.

C. Reappraisal Questions

To make an informed reappraisal decision, the following questions will be answered in the context of the Reappraisal Form.

  • What is the collection name associated with the records?
  • Does the RAC have ownership of the records?
  • Does the RAC have any legal requirements to keep the collection?
  • Has the donor of the collection or another institution/individual provided funding for processing, staffing, preservation work, or additions to the RAC endowment?
  • What is the approximate cubic footage of the collection?
  • Does the collection contain archival material?
  • Does the collection fall within the Collection Policy of the RAC?
  • Are there any access restrictions on the collection?
  • Are there electronic records in the collection? What is their extent?
  • Does the collection include special formats? If so, what are the types and their extent?
  • Has preservation work been done on the collection previously?
  • Does the collection have formats that are obsolete or physically degraded beyond use? Is the collection or any part of the collection hazardous to the staff or other collections?
  • What are the types of records present in the collection (i.e. correspondence, subject files, board minutes, etc.)?
  • Have materials been removed from the collection?
  • Does an inventory or finding aid exist for the collection?
  • Has the collection been made accessible to researchers?
  • How often has the collection been accessed by researchers?
  • Has the collection been used by RAC staff? If so, how?
  • Has any part of the collection ever been charged out to the donor institution?
  • Has any part of the collection ever been lent to other institutions?
  • How did the collection come to the RAC?
  • Is there another repository to which the materials could be transferred if the records are deemed not appropriate for the RAC and the agreement allows it?
  • What are the potential costs related to the deaccessioning and disposition of the records if they are deemed inappropriate for the RAC (transfer or disposal)?

D. Reappraisal Recommendation Workflow

After answering the above questions, the appraisal archivist will make a recommendation for the records to the Director of Archives.The Director of Archives will submit the recommendation to the members of the Archives Management Team for comment. Based on the comments received, the recommendation will be revised and a final version will be resubmitted to the Director of Archives who will pass the recommendation on to the President of the Rockefeller Archive Center for a final disposition decision. Any follow-up actions at this point will be coordinated with Archive Center administration as steps to implement the reappraisal decision may be situationally specific.

Disposal of the records should be a last option. It may be necessary because of extreme preservation issues, certain types of restricted information, obsolete formats, or duplicate material. It may also be necessary if another repository cannot be found for the records and the donor does not wish them returned.

Reappraisal Documentation

Documentation generated during the reappraisal process is incorporated into the collection file. It may include the following:

A. Reappraisal Form

Each reappraised set of records has a completed reappraisal form. This form includes information pertaining to the questions above including: collection name, donor contact information, collection history, agreements and restrictions, acquisition information, content of the collection, collection use history, etc. The form may also be accompanied by notes relating to the reappraisal process.

B. Donor Letter(s)

If it is determined that a collection is to be deaccessioned, then a letter goes to the donor or their representative. A copy of this letter is included in the collection file.

C. Deaccession Form

Any deaccessioned collection includes a form containing information about the collection as well as the disposition of the records subsequent to deaccessioning.

D. Transfer Paperwork

If the collection is transferred, documentation for that process includes correspondence with other repositories regarding the transfer, and transfer of records paperwork for the receiving repository.

E. Shipping Paperwork

If the collection is transferred to another repository or returned to the donor, the RAC covers the expense of shipping. Any shipping paperwork is included in the collection file.

F. Destruction Paperwork

In certain instances, the RAC may have an outside vendor shred materials that have been deemed non-archival or inappropriate for the RAC. Any paperwork documenting this process (forms, correspondence, etc.) is included in the collection file.