Parsing the State of State Records Report: Summary of Collections Part 1

Jan 17, 2020

Parsing the State of State Records Report: Summary of Collections Part 1

by Veronica Martzahl

The holdings of State Archives fall in one of three categories: state or territorial government records, local government records, or non-governmental records. The prevalence of non-governmental records varies greatly depending on the mission of the individual institution and the scope of its collecting policies. Similarly, not all state archives accept local government records.

Within these categories, the collections can be looked at in several different ways: non-electronic vs. electronic; text-based vs. audio-visual; and accessioned vs. processed. This week’s blog is focused on overall non-electronic holdings across state government, local government and non-governmental records.

While 48 respondents provided statistics on the volume of their total non-electronic holdings, nine did not breakout the data into categories. Not surprisingly, all 39 who did categorize their holdings stated that they manage state and territorial records. Thirty-one of those respondents also manage local government records and twenty-nine take in non-governmental records.

As we drill deeper into these holdings, several issues make analysis tricky. For one thing, the same institutions do not always respond to the survey each bi-annuum. Nine respondents reporting data for FY18 did not provide data for the FY16 survey. It also is apparent that each institution tracks its statistics differently. The survey requested volume in linear feet, not several archives track their holdings in cubic feet. When we look at changes in total holdings across previous ARMS reports, it is not always clear if the reported numbers are presented or if they have been normalized to a single unit of measurement. Regardless, if we just look at the reported numbers from the FY16 and the FY18 report, the bulk of the institutions reported a moderate increase up to 4.9% of their holdings.

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The remaining archives provided a wide range of increases and decreased in percentage changes. The more extreme changes are an interesting subset that warrant further investigation in future reports. Are large increases due to an administration change that brought in more than usual amounts of records? Did extensive reappraisal lead to decreases in volume? Or do we chalk these up to inconsistent reporting in one of the survey years? Future surveys would benefit from a follow-up question to shed light on this situation.

Category: General News

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