LMA appraisal policy
London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) exists to collect records of London’s rich history and to find and collect records of London’s vibrant and diverse present. We select records of the highest archival value for permanent preservation. Appraisal is an essential archival activity which informs our selection procedure.
Appraisal and removal of duplicate, ephemeral and low information value records allows LMA to maximise storage space for archive collections of permanent historical value.
Modern archives are particularly voluminous. This is especially true for London, due to the history of London government, and to the proliferation of organisations based in the capital, many of which have deposited their archives at LMA. Appraisal is necessary to maintain control of this material and to ensure that only the items most useful and relevant to research are retained.
The passing of the Freedom of Information Act in 2000 made the recording of information about appraisal, and especially disposal, decisions of vital importance. The Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice on the Management of Records, issued under section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 states “…authorities need to have in place systems for managing appraisal and for recording the disposal decisions made”. This does not apply to routine disposal of duplicate and ephemeral material identified during the standard cataloguing process.
This policy applies to all collections stored and maintained by LMA ,ie the History of London Collection, designated as being of national and international importance by the Arts Council England. It includes both collections owned by the City of London and those deposited on long term loan.
Our right to appraise will be negotiated and recorded in the deposit or gift agreement for each archive collection.
This policy covers the appraisal of newly deposited/donated records, and also considers the re-appraisal of existing collections. LMA reserves the right to review its holdings to assess their ongoing relevance and where appropriate to explore disposal or deaccessioning options in accordance with the principles set out in this policy and with reference to The National Archives’ Deaccessioning and Disposal: Guidance for archive services, 2015.
Appraisal is the process of selecting records of long-term archival value for permanent preservation and identifying records of low or no further value so that they can be destroyed. Appraisal is a quality control mechanism. It is a positive and essential archival activity.
- To ensure that appraisal strategy for archival purposes selects records of the highest archival value, avoiding duplication. LMA preserves and conserves records permanently and must therefore limit its holdings to records of the highest archival value
- To assess the historical significance of individual items, series and collections across the History of London Collection and in particular to develop rational, consistent and cost-effective appraisal methodology for records common to certain types of organisations
- To provide rational and consistent appraisal decisions, valid over time, for all records of potential archival value produced by the organisations and individuals whose collections are held at LMA and to document those decisions
- To destroy duplicate material and ephemera and to destroy all other unwanted material confidentially, if not wanted by the depositor. Material will occasionally be offered to other archive services
- To be aware of usage and potential future research, and to assess these needs alongside overall collection and acquisition strategies as set out in our Collections Acquisitions and Management Policy
- To assess risk in all circumstances and make decisions based on full analysis of available information
Appraisal will be carried out by qualified archival professionals, or by para-professionals under the supervision of a qualified archivist.
Appraisal of new deposits and gifts will be carried out in two stages: before receipt into LMA and after receipt during the cataloguing process.
Where possible, staff will appraise the collection on-site before deposit/gift takes place. This will generally be undertaken at a ‘series’ level and will enable staff to identify series or types of records not worthy of long-term preservation. This pre-acquisition appraisal helps avoid the unnecessary expense of taking this material into LMA and removing it at a later stage. It is of course entirely possible that a collection will be rejected in its entirety.
Pre-acquisition appraisal will also provide an opportunity to identify and reject collections, or parts of collections, whose informational value duplicates others already held at LMA or which contravene in-house guidelines. For example, hospital collections often contain formulaic series of patients’ records which are duplicated in the archives of other hospitals and which therefore contain little historical value over and above that of the individuals represented in the records. In-house guidelines are in place specifying cut-off dates for acceptance of records from specific classifications, notably 15 years for parish material and two years for coroners’ case files.
For newly-deposited/donated collections, appraisal will generally be carried out during the cataloguing process on a file by file basis.
We ensure the right to appraisal is embedded in each deposit/gift agreement. After appraisal, owners of collections will be offered a choice between taking back appraised items or allowing the items to be sent for confidential destruction. We will not dispose of any records in our ownership by sale.
Re-appraisal will often be necessary for larger collections if no or little appraisal was carried out at the time of acquisition.
Two methods of appraisal will be used for existing collections, depending on their size and complexity. Smaller collections may be appraised on a file by file basis. Appraisal on a larger scale will also utilise the file by file method and in some cases this will be supplemented by macro-appraisal.
Macro-appraisal will be applied to very large collections, where the value of the records can be assessed at departmental or unit level rather than at an individual file level. This type of appraisal encourages organisation-wide analysis of functions as a guide to identifying records of value for archival purposes. It can identify areas of overlap so avoiding duplication of information and sometimes of sources selected for the archive.
For both the above methods, we will develop guidance for the appraisal of homogenous categories of records, such as those produced by similar types of department or organisation, eg financial departments, or by similar types of activities/functions.
In the case of public records deposited under the Public Records Act, we will liaise with The National Archives (TNA) to identify any series or items not considered worthy of long-term preservation.
All material for disposal will be dealt with confidentially. On rare occasions it may be offered to other archive services (if owned by LMA). Deposited material will be offered back to the depositor unless the depositor cannot be traced (using the last available contact details the depositor has supplied). Unwanted material which has been donated may be offered back to the donor.
Appraisal will be carried out within the following legal framework:
- Freedom of Information Act 2000
- Public Records Act 1958 and 1967
- Adoption legislation (as relating to local government and public records holding concerning care of children)
- Contract law
- Financial regulations
- Data Protection Act, 2018
Appraisal for archival purposes concentrates largely on the historical value of a record, any value for current business purposes having been superseded when the collection was deposited in the archive. Historical value can be broken down into two areas: ‘evidential value’, the way the record documents the history, structure and functions of an organisation; and ‘informational value’, or value in providing research material on persons, places and subjects.
Records selected for permanent preservation at LMA should be those which show the significance of the functions and activities of organisations. Items of the highest archival value are those which are most capable of documenting change, continuity and development over time, and of assisting historical interpretation of such changes.
Appraisers will therefore use the following criteria when appraising collections, selecting items which give significant information regarding:
- The history of the organisation or individual, including for institutions their organisation and procedures
- The formulation of any policies or legislation and, more selectively, their implementation and interpretation
- Notable events or persons, but only when the records add significantly to what is already known
- Major events, developments or trends in political, social, legal or economic history, especially those relevant to London history such as the blitz, mass migration, urban development
- Scientific, technological or medical research and development
- Demographic, medical, social, cultural and economic history and historical events
- Geography, including by means of statistical and quantitative research
- Internal or external guidelines which give criteria for specific classes of records, such as the Church of England Record Centre’s “Keep or Bin” for parish records and LMA’s Coroners’ Records Appraisal Criteria for coroners’ case files
Appraisers will additionally be aware of potential levels of interest from our main user-groups, and where possible retain material which will add significantly to main topics of research, such as genealogy and local history.
Appraisers will consider keeping material which may not exactly conform to any established criteria, but which does have information which is of interest, or which may be presented in a lively and engaging way.
In connection with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) all documents which contain or may contain content pertaining directly or indirectly to the sexual abuse of children or to child protection and care will be retained in line with the Cabinet Office’s advice issued March 2015 and subsequent Notice of retention/non‐destruction of documents sent to local authority chief executives in July 2015.
Public Records for which ‘New Burdens’ funding has been received will not be further appraised in accordance with The National Archives’ guidance.
All routine or duplicated material will be systematically removed from the collection. Where possible and practical, all types of records produced by an organisation (and related organisations too if applicable) will be surveyed during appraisal, in order to track or identify sources of information. This will enable items which duplicate information to be selected for disposal.
In some circumstances material may be suitable for long-term preservation by virtue of its suitability for audience development and appraisers will also bear this in mind when appraising ephemeral material.
Sampling: random or other sampling methods are used pragmatically, with appropriate methodologies implemented which are applicable to the collection under review.
Disposal decisions made after deposit/gift of a collection will be recorded in the electronic catalogue during the course of a cataloguing project, at the appropriate level for the material destroyed, including reasons for disposal, for example duplicates information held elsewhere, or not considered worthy of permanent preservation. Regular statistics are kept to record the amount of material appraised and destroyed. This does not include routine direct duplicates or ephemeral items identified during the standard cataloguing process.
For electronic records, TNA advises waiting 25 years before deciding which items are of archival value. This is due to the potentially large financial outlay involved in the long-term preservation of such records in an accessible form to future generations. In addition, computer records may be destroyed inadvertently or by virtue of rapid technological change before appraisal takes place; information about the records, on which appraisal rests, may be lost once they are inactive.
Please complete a comments form at LMA or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to give feedback on this policy.
This policy will be reviewed at least every two years to make sure it remains timely and relevant.
The policy was last reviewed in January 2020.