Workbook on Digital Private Papers > Collection development > Regular snapshot accessions

Regular snapshot accessions

In this approach, the archivist makes regular snapshot captures of digital records which are exact copies of the data held by the creator and which are immediately accessioned into a managed digital repository. Complementary paper records could also be accessioned, where appropriate, during the same visit. The visiting archivist would also advise the creator on the creation, management and storage of both their paper and digital records. It is important to reach an agreement with the depositor about the kinds of materials that can be accessioned in these snapshots, and to decide on a frequency and timing of snapshots that is appropriate to the quantity of material being created and the working year of the creator. The snapshot approach to collection development is often applied when collecting the archives of organisations. This periodic sampling gives a snapshot of the organisation at regular intervals and it is interesting to see the rise and fall of relationships between individuals and organisations from one accession to the next. This would be equally interesting in the context of personal archives.

Advantages

  • Regular meetings help to build a positive relationship with the creator leading to a high level of trust and a greater willingness to transfer more sensitive records. Regular contact leads to greater commitment on both sides and a stronger likelihood of ultimately acquiring the complete archive.
  • Accessioning records earlier in the lifecycle will increase the chances of longevity for some objects.
  • Accessioning near contemporary records can make the appraisal process much easier because the events and personalities (major and minor) to which the records pertain will be fresher in the archivistís mind. The archivist would also have the advantage of being able to consult the creator for contextual information.
  • Regular visits allow the archivist to keep in touch with the record keeping practices of the record creator and offer timely advice.
  • Many visits over the lifetime of the record-creator will provide the archivist with excellent contextual information which will inform the descriptive metadata and in turn aid the eventual discovery and usage of records by researchers.
  • Greater likelihood of capturing early drafts/versions of documents, which might be refined later on and earlier versions overwritten.

Disadvantages

  • Collections composed of frequent accessions may become over-large. Improved search and discovery tools and declining storage costs may undermine this argument for digital objects, but not for the paper materials which accompany them.
  • Appraising collections sooner after creation may be more difficult. Often events and personalities only become major (or minor) in retrospect, and there may be a danger of destroying something which could have huge significance later on.
  • Because copies of digital material are taken, it is possible that some files may be accessioned more than once, resulting in the duplication of some files across snapshots. This will need to be considered when developing appraisal and description guidelines and strategies may need to be developed to deal with issues such as versioning and duplication.
  • Changes in the personal or working life of the individual may make such a relationship difficult to sustain.
  • The increase of contract staff in archives may present difficulties in sustaining long-term relationships of this kind.
  • The creator might view the digital repository as a records management service and devolve the management of current and semi-current records to the Library, including storage and retrieval.
  • Regular visits from the archive can be perceived as inconvenient. Accessioning large amounts of digital material does take time.
  • If a third party is administering the process on behalf of the creator responsible for the records (e.g. the assistant of a politician), it can be difficult for them to obtain the necessary approval from the creator to transfer the records.
  • The creator may wish to transfer contemporary analogue materials alongside digital materials. This could result in a substantial paper archive, which must be stored for some period of time before it may be accessed by researchers.