Cataloguing a backlog

11:42 AM

The Ballast Trust has a backlog of nearly 400 linear metres. This is made up of around 15 distinct collections ranging from 90 linear metres down to just 2 linear metres. It is my job as Archivist to decide how to tackle the backlog, making best use of the expertise we have from other staff and volunteers and what our priorities should be.

There are many different ways to decide cataloguing priorities. A normal working archive might focus on accessions that most closely reflect their collection policy or are frequently requested by researchers. Some archives concentrate on getting through multiple small collections quickly and leave large collections till last. An interesting presentation from two American Archivists about minimal processing to clear archival backlogs can be found here.

At the Ballast Trust, the first step has been to find out exactly what we have and I am now thinking about what factors should inform the decision process to assign priorities to collections. I have read the Logjam Report which has useful criteria for definining cataloguing priorites. Our own priorities include:

  • Whether we have staff or volunteers with the expertise to process the collection
  • Size of collection - could it be a quick win?
  • Physical condition - is it at risk?
  • Does it have an owner - is there a particular demand for it and does the owner have the space to take it back when finished?
In time this will mean that we can begin to reduce the number of shelves we have that look like this.

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