Elsie Morey and Cyril Ackerman represented the Cumberland Township Historical Society (CTHS) board at a course called “Archives without Tears” presented by the state Historical and Museum Commission and hosted by Franklin County Historical Society at Coyle Free Library, Chambersburg, Pa. The event was geared for nonprofits and volunteers for those organizations involved in archival work and preservation.
The course began with what are records and what does the word archives mean. This led the class to collection policies: What will be the purpose of the policy, what type of collections will be emphasized, the acquisition process, a removal process and whether or not to have a loan process.
To understand how this works we read collection policy statements. The workbook (provided in the workshop) had various scenarios of would you accept or reject the collection being offered. Each was discussed ,always referring back to the collection policy. Did the items for consideration meet that requirement? Acceptance or rejection opinions were then aired by the group.
There was a section dedicated to information about appraisals. There are always questions to ask: Are the records of historic value and are they appropriate for the society” This led to discussions with scenarios of whether or not the various example collections would meet the requirements.
After acceptance of a collection the materials must go through the accession process – assigning numbers to the items, the year received, and description of the material to mention a few.
The last part of the course was about digitization of the collection as a preservation tool. Where to save data and what format would be used were the fly in the ointment. CTHS will have to make technical decisions about how we move forward with our digital archiving policies. Formats being used now may not be compatible with what will be used 10 or 15 years into the future.
Included with the class materials was a flash drive with forms and documents the PHMC currently uses. On it are examples of policy statements, accession methods, and appraisal forms, all of which may be used and modified to fit one’s own historical society needs.
CTHS is in the process of making our documents, videos, and artifacts available for public and educational research. The current board of directors is dedicated to providing this public service for historical research.
Cyril Ackerman is the current secretary of Cumberland Township Historical Society.