This course examines the archivist's "first responsibility," the appraisal of records in all media for long-term preservation. The responsibility is "first" because appraisal comes first in the sequence of archival functions and thus influences all subsequent archival activities, and its "first" in importance because appraisal determines what tiny silver of the total human documentary production will actually become "archives" and thus part of society's collective memory. The archivist is thereby actively shaping the future's history of our own times.
This course begins with the theoretical foundations of appraisal and the controversial responsibility of assigning cultural value to some documentary artifacts and not others, within a broader context of history and memory. Sessions on the evolution of appraisal thinking, and different appraisal experiences, in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia, follow. With this background, the course will focus on examples from the real world of appraisal strategy and methodology, including electronic records. Attention will be paid to personal and private records as well as government and institutional ones. The class will end by trying to apply the theories and methodologies through group projects to various recording media and functional areas of records creation, these reflecting student interests.
The goal of the course is to provide students through readings and discussion with a thorough knowledge of the basic theories, strategies, and professional practices concerning appraisal and an orientation to doing this job well as working archivists.