Hidden collections

We’ve been hearing this term a lot lately.  Some granting agencies are offering grants to help uncover “hidden collections.”  And hidden is usually defined as a lack of descriptive material on the collection.

Hang around archival conferences a lot, and the term you’ll probably hear is not “hidden collections” but “backlog.” What’s in the stacks that isn’t accessible because it isn’t described.  Neither “hidden collections” nor “backlog” are very attractive terms to archivists because they’re the exact opposite of one of our primary goals: making records available.  But instead of fussing about what term is being used, A&SC is going to do something else that will hopefully make the concept entirely irrelevant to us so we never have to hear any such synonym again.  Over the next few years, among other projects, we will be coming up with at least a summary collection description for all collections in our holdings that can be made available for research.  Once we’ve got that done, we can start to assess these collections and prioritize them for further descriptive efforts.  And then?  No more hidden collections.  Or backlog.  Or whatever you want to call it.

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