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Archives Accreditation and another change of plan

April 13, 2012

A small but diverse group of archivists and records managers met on 2nd April for an in-person discussion of the Archives Accreditation Schemedestruction document’ prior to our planned twitter chat on Monday 30th April (8-9pm – please suggest questions for the chat in the comments below).  The diversity of attendees’ backgrounds led to some debate about how an ‘archive’ should be defined, something which was felt to be missing from the destruction document, and also where the boundaries of eligibility lay: for instance, would a records management service potentially qualify for assessment under the proposed Archives Accreditation Scheme?

There was a strong feeling amongst the group that any Accreditation Scheme should be aspirational and promote continual development and achievement, both for the individual services seeking Accreditation, and for the archives profession at a more global level.  For this reason, several group members proposed that the scheme should be more graduated, with more than two levels of assessment within each module.  Carnegie-Mellon’s Capability Maturity Model (which identifies a 5-level process maturity continuum) was suggested as a possible tool for putting together such a framework.  There was also some discussion as to the purpose of an Accreditation Scheme, including a spirited debate as to whether or not there would be any value for individual services in producing a single, aggregated score put together from the different sections of the scheme.

There was also some concern expressed about the binary division between onsite and digital services seen across the destruction document.  The feeling amongst the group was that digital should be embedded into the business-as-usual work of any archive, although it was recognised that some organisations might require additional assistance in working towards this goal, and in identifying appropriate methods of measuring progress.  The example was given of an organisation having a single ‘Preservation Policy’ which covered archives regardless of format.  There was also some agreement that doing (digital preservation, audience development, collections development or whatever) should be scored higher within the Accreditation Scheme than merely producing a policy or strategy document.

If all this wasn’t exhausting enough, later in the evening, a splinter group also took up where we’d left off our previous Cardigan debate on Moreq2010!

We look forward to more people joining us for the twitter discussion on Accreditation on 30th April.  Also, please note we have changed the date for the next face-to-face meeting to 14th May, as we realised that the previously set date of 7th is a bank holiday.  The subject of discussion will be Freedom of Information (see The evil of the paper clip post and comments for reading suggestions).

  1. One point that keeps coming back to my mind is that any kind of accreditation process is liable to reward people and organisations for being good at (literal and/or metaphorical) box-ticking.

    My question for the Twitter discussion is: how far do the criteria outlined in the ‘destruction’ document distinguish effectively between archive services that merely have impressive-looking policy and strategy documents and those that put their fine policies and strategies into practice?

  2. Following on from points here, I hope some of you had a chance to consider and feed into the discussion of eligibility criteria which were posted on the dialogue around this time – the feedback on those criteria is still open for discussion and answers part of the ‘what is an archive’ question.

    As far as box-ticking goes, this is always a problem with distance assessment, of course – backing up paper exercises with a site validation visit in a proportion of cases is essential. Validation levels are tbc but anything from 10-40% being considered. Many assessing partner bodies intend these to be peer-reviewed validations, which should increase scrutiny from peer services and get over the box-ticking problem.

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