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Collections management

Creating a collections management policy document

A collections management policy will help you make decisions about your community archive and means everyone involved is working towards the same goals. It will also act as a tool to help continue the work of the archive in the long term.

Create a collections management policy document with the following sections:

  • Mission statement
  • Collecting statement
  • Access statement
  • Preservation statement

Before starting, decide who will draw up the document, and work together with your group (if you have one) to agree what you’ll include.

You’re unlikely to cover everything on your first attempt. Date each version of the document as you update it so you know which is the latest.

The collections management policy document should be published on your website (if you have one) so users can read it.

Mission statement

A mission statement answers the question ‘what do we do - what is our purpose?’ It has the types of items collected and what is done with them.

Keep your mission statement short and to the point with one or two simple sentences.

For example, the Norfolk Record Office mission statement reads: 'We collect and preserve unique archives relating to the history of Norfolk and make them accessible across the world.'

Your mission statement could include a sentence which answers the question ‘why do we do this?’, but it’s not always necessary.

Your mission statement can be added to the ‘about us’ section of your community archive website, if you have one.

Collecting statement

A collecting statement sets out what is collected by the archive. It allows you to focus your time and resources on the items that are most important and relevant. It also helps you say ‘no’ to items which fall outside of its scope.

A collecting statement includes:

  • The types of items you want to collect (eg original documents, photocopies, books, objects, digital copies of documents, digital photographs)
  • The geographical area you want to collect from (eg the local parish)
  • The themes or topics you want to include (eg agricultural practices)
  • Exclusions – what you do not wish to collect and why (eg material that doesn’t relate to a particular village, or official records that should be held by a record office such as school log books)
  • Terms of acceptance – the conditions under which you will accept archives. Further guidance on adding items to your community archive.

Access statement

An access statement sets out where and how your archive items can be used and by who.

An access statement includes:

  • Details of where and when items can be viewed (eg in a space looked after by the community archive, or on your community archive website)
  • Restrictions (eg you may wish researchers to only view copies of certain archives because the originals are too fragile to handle)
  • A note that each item will have particular conditions of access listed in its catalogue description – for example if it can’t be viewed because it contains sensitive information (this only applies if you agree to accept items with conditions attached)
  • Your community archive’s contact details, so people can get in touch with questions or enquiries about viewing the archives

Preservation statement

A preservation statement sets out how you will look after the archive’s collection items.

A preservation statement includes:

  • A description of where and how the items are being stored
  • The steps taken to keep them safe and secure
  • A list of keyholders with access to the storage area
  • A description of how you will maintain access to fragile or damaged items (eg through photocopies or digital photographs)
  • A list of ‘best practice’ guidelines to ensure the ongoing preservation of the items and/or types of material that are a priority for you to preserve

Read our full guide on how to preserve your archives.

Collections management survey:

Fill out this survey to let us know your thoughts on the collections management guide.