Another from the set of questions we received from students in a UAA History class.
Do all pieces of historical documents stay in the archives indefinitely? Or for when you make an electronic version of a document, what happens to the original paper copy?
In most cases they what comes into the Archives stays in the Archives, but there are some exceptions. In the past the archives sometimes kept things like magazines and books, which are not part of our collecting focus especially since the rest of the library does a really great job of handling them and making them available. We have gone back and re-evaluated many of our collections, especially those with a lot of published material in them, and published material generally gets added to the Rare Books collection or offered to the general library collections. Duplicates or copies of materials where the originals are held by other institutions may also be subject to weeding from our collections.
Sometimes we re-evaluate a collection and realize that it would be more appropriate for another another archive. This can happen because it does not have a significant amount of Alaska content, or because the rest of the creator’s papers are elsewhere and we want to keep the papers together. For example, a few weeks ago Arlene was looking at a guest book for a tourist boat from the late 1940s that we’d had here for quite some time. It had originally been somewhere in the Consortium Library when the Archives was created and was transferred to us. It was definitely unique and original, but when it came in we didn’t have simple web searching capabilities like search engines, so there was nothing in particular to help us figure out where the tourist boat had been ported. Arlene got curious about this when she pulled it for a class project, did a quick web search, and found out that the boat was–and always had been–on some of the lakes in the Seattle area and was, in fact, still operating as a tourist attraction! She got in contact with the University of Washington Special Collections and they were happy to take it in and make it accessible. The guest book had a moose on the cover so maybe that’s how it ended up in a library in Alaska in the first place?
We also sometimes do “preservation reformatting” (i.e. digitize and destroy) for dangerous or disintegrating things but for the most part, hard copy has a much longer life span and much less expensive life span than digital so we wouldn’t have much argument for doing so. More on that in one of the answers to come (and we’ll try to remember to link that here when it goes live.)
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