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#AskAConservator: submitting documents to a repository

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"Archival Documents" by thalerjn is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

CAPC is participating in #AskAConservator Day! Lesia asks:

Our Canadian women’s organization has years of correspondence and documents created in the Ukrainian language. Before we submit these to a permanent repository, is it necessary to attach a one-line content summary on each?

Carmen Li says:

Thanks for submitting your question! Conservators typically work on the preservation of materials, so this falls somewhat outside of our wheelhouse. However, if there's one thing that conservation professionals are good at, it's collaborating with subject matter experts to find answers to what we don't know. I reached out to archivist Jonathan M. Pringle to provide a response. Jonathan received his Master of Archival Studies from the University of British Columbia and is currently Scholarly Communications & Digital Librarian at University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Library & Informatics Center.

Jonathan's response:

The shortest answer to the question is, ‘it depends.’ Prior to donation to an archival repository, it would be especially helpful to have one of two things to assist the receiving institution during the process of acquisition: (1) one or a series of contextual notes that details the scope and content of unique sections of the materials (such as a broad content summary; dates; names) or (2) an inventory of everything that provides specific details to facilitate ease of subsequent access.

In a perfect world, both would be provided to the repository. The ‘it depends’ part really is in reflection on how much time the organization has to do this descriptive work. Related, considering this is content in the Ukrainian language, I would put a greater emphasis on a broader contextual description, and leave the precision of itemized inventories/translation to the discretion of the receiving institution. The effort of exhaustive translation in an inventory—if this is what the organization is thinking—would again depend on how much time they have to do this work prior to donation.