Workbook on Digital Private Papers > Appraisal and disposal > Appraisal-related issues encountered by Paradigm

Appraisal-related issues encountered by Paradigm

Pre-acquisition appraisal

Paradigm started the process of appraising its exemplar personal digital archives with a records survey prior to accession. The survey was designed to assess the content, context, structure and technical state of the creator's archives and was sent to participants in advance of the initial visit so that participants were aware of the kind of information required by the archivists.

During the initial survey, both the creator and archivist ruled out the accessioning of certain files and the archivist recorded information to assist in addressing various appraisal challenges.

Examples of files not selected in personal archives accessioned by Paradigm:

  1. Casework files - some offices used specialist casework software for constituency work, which manages each case from creation until closure. This software allows the creation of reports on subject, ethnicity, age or gender of the constituent. Data can be extracted from the reports without revealing the identities of individuals. Paradigm's Academic Advisory Board argued that such survey data provided a snapshot of local political concerns of interest to social scientists, local and family historians of the future. Neither of the participating institutions have collected such material in the past, however, and given this lack of precedent, the volume of the series, and the huge Intellectual Property Right (IPR) and sensitivity issues associated with it, Paradigm decided that casework files were beyond the scope of the project. Interestingly, the majority of Paradigm participants also expressed an unwillingness to permit access to casework files.
  2. Public Records - Records created by ministers during the course of official business fall under the Public Records Act and a small proportion will be selected for permanent preservation at The National Archives (TNA). Selection is carried out by the relevant Departmental Record Officer in conjunction with The National Archives' own selection criteria. The 'personal' aspects of politicians' private records are not classified as public records. However, where overlap of content occurs, it is necessary to synchronise cataloguing and access decisions with those taken for similar records held at TNA. Additionally, contact with the Cabinet Office may be required in some cases. Individuals prominent in other walks of life might find that records pertaining to their 'official' roles will be collected by local authority, organisational, and national archives.