Collection development

Collecting policies

Collecting policies are an integral part of good practice in managing and caring for archive collections. They describe what material an archive collects and why.

Collecting policies:

  • address important strategic and practical issues, including the aims and objectives of the institution, availability of staff and storage resources
  • form part of the overall policy framework of an archive service, which can cover all aspects of preservation, access, customer care and quality management

Drawing up or revising a collecting policy is an opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a repository. It can enable future collecting to be more representative of culturally diverse communities and local or regional strengths, encourage engagement with records from new or non-traditional sources, and re-direct use and interpretation of existing collections.

Our use of collecting policies

Collecting policies:

  • inform our advice on appropriate repositories to private owners who wish to deposit records
  • support our decisions in fulfilling The National Archives’ statutory and other functions, including transfer and preservation of public records and allocating manuscripts accepted in lieu of tax
  • guide the archive sales catalogue monitoring service in notifying relevant repositories of manuscripts passing through auction sales rooms

Archive collection policy statements: checklist of suggested contents (PDF)

Collection development toolkit and guidance

We have developed these tools and guidance to help organisations and groups to:

  • review and develop their collections
  • identify gaps and risks
  • safeguard their collections
  • consider short and long-term needs for preservation and access

The toolkit encourages collection development to ensure that diverse aspects of modern life are represented within archives. This in turn supports active collections of cultural and evidential value across different:

  • localities
  • types of organisation and community
  • themes, subjects and activity
  • types and formats of information

Using this toolkit will enable organisations and groups to:

  • understand and assess the need for collections development in their area of interest
  • produce a collections development policy
  • follow the process of a collections strategy to deliver the policy
  • identify and make use of the support that is available

It is aimed at both established and new archive collections and services. It may be useful to any organisation keen to develop and safeguard their archives.

Collection development toolkit and guidance (PDF, 0.45MB)

Revisiting collections

Revisiting Collections sets out a method for involving users in reviewing collection descriptions which can expose references to topics latent, embedded or hidden.

The Revisiting Archive Collections module explores how user input can enrich and expand collection information. It also offers practical guidance and advice on working with groups to address cataloguing issues.

Deaccessioning and disposal

To meet the Archive Service Accreditation standard, archive services need to have policies, plans and procedures in place covering all collections development activities including deaccessioning and disposal.

Deaccessioning should be done rarely and with great care, and should be seen in context of strategic collections development.

Use our guidance to:

  • find out what deaccessioning means for archives
  • explore relevant ethical, legal and regulatory issues
  • get practical assistance with decision-making

Deaccessioning and disposal: guidance for archive services (PDF, 0.33MB)