Optimum access? Processing in college and university archives

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Processing is at the heart of what we do as archivists but has been one of the most under-analyzed aspects of our work, particularly in its relationship to access. This article describes and analyzes the ways in which current processing techniques affect access at college and university archives. The analysis shows that paper-based processing backlogs are not correlated to the application of intensive processing techniques and that they are only mildly correlated to the application of complex descriptive technologies. Many institutions have not made as much descriptive information available online as might be desirable, and few institutions are actively soliciting or processing electronic records. While these problems may seem intractable, some institutions have made remarkable progress in providing effective processing and descriptive programs and in developing associated access tools. This article suggests specific ways that we can learn from their successes. The profession as a whole has a responsibility to help all institutions use proven management techniques and easy-to-implement descriptive tools, so that the universe of archival materials that is held by all repositories may be more accessible to users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-174
Number of pages29
JournalAmerican Archivist
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Library and Information Sciences


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