If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton you may as well make it dance
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“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance”. How one repository tangoed successfully with some controversial collection management activities. Mark A. Greene American Heritage Center University of Wyoming [email protected] Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton you may as well make it dance l.jpg

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance”

How one repository tangoed successfully with some controversial collection management activities

Mark A. Greene

American Heritage Center

University of Wyoming

[email protected]


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Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes well make it dance”


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Wyoming, the cowboy state well make it dance”


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American heritage center, university of well make it dance”wyoming



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American heritage center, university of well make it dance”wyoming


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Ahc’s well make it dance” collecting policy: data elements

  • Topical Area (e.g., Journalism, Conservation)

  • Geographical Area (from which collections are sought/accepted: International, National, Regional, or State)

  • Accept Donations of New Collections? (Y/N)

  • Actively Solicit and/or Consider Purchases? (Y/N)


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Ahc’s well make it dance” collecting policy: data elements, Cont’d

  • Retrospective Application of Policy? (i.e., actively reappraise collections in this topical area)

  • Limits on Formats? (e.g., will not accept constituent correspondence from congressional offices, will not accept drafts of publications from journalists)


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Ahc well make it dance” collecting policy: one example of topical area

  • Journalism In addition to documenting the business and practice of journalism in Wyoming, the AHC will seek to document journalism regionally in the areas of agriculture and travel/tourism, and nationally in the areas of war correspondents, women journalists, “adventure travel,” and coverage of national politics. To be considered for AHC collections, journalists must have spent a significant portion of their careers in the areas specified, but need not have worked exclusively in those areas….


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Ahc well make it dance” collecting policy: one example of topical area, cont’d

  • Journalism, cont’d …The AHC will not collect journalism nationally or regionally in the areas of medicine, science, technology, economics, entertainment, religion, foreign affairs. Underdocumented communities: African American women journalists.

    • Geographic Area: Wyoming; Regional—travel/tourism, agriculture, sports; National—war, women, national politics, “adventure travel”.


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Ahc well make it dance” collecting policy: one example of topical area, cont’d

  • Journalism, cont’d

    • Accept New Collections? Y

    • Solicit/Purchase Collections? Y

    • Reappraise Existing Collections? Y

    • Limits on Formats? Generally will not accept drafts of published articles. Will not accept collections that in their entirety consist of copies (draft or printed) of articles.


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On-site appraisal, Minnesota historical society, 1990s well make it dance”

Me, with slightly more hair, much less weight. Work to right required I learn to drill out file cabinet locks with a titanium bit.


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More sites of field appraisal, Minnesota historical society, 1990s

Photo at top right was taken in a half-collapsed barn, on a winter day with temperatures below minus 20 Centigrade; bottom of one crate was frozen to dirt floor, and so were its contents which had also been used as mice nests


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Introduction to AHC 1990sDeaccessioning policy

  • Cultural institutions’ missions and collecting areas change with time, making it necessary to have in place a mechanism which allows for re-evaluating earlier appraisal decisions.

  • Such periodic reappraisal of collections is a legitimate and necessary part of development in archives and manuscript repositories and allows the identification of materials that would not be accepted today or are no longer appropriate to the institution’s mission.

  • An important part of a collections management policy is deaccessioning.


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Portion of AHC 1990sdeaccessioning policy

Deaccessioning is considered only for material that meets one or more of the following conditions:

  • 1) No longer relevant and useful to AHC mission

  • 2) Cannot be properly stored, preserved, or used

  • 3) No longer retains its physical integrity, identity, or authenticity

  • 4) Is unnecessarily duplicated in the collections

  • 5) Is part of a larger collection, other portions of which are owned by another repository that makes its holdings accessible to the public


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Portion of AHC 1990sdeaccessioning policy

  • When the conditions for deaccessioning have been met, any AHC faculty or staff may recommend deaccessioning to the Acquisitions Committee.

  • The Acquisitions Committee will make a recommendation regarding deaccessioning to the director.

  • The decision about method of disposition is separate from the decision to deaccession. That is, material will not be deaccessioned for the purpose of a specific disposition.

  • As a first principle, AHC endeavors to ensure continued scholarly and public access to the deaccessioned material, though this is only true regarding original material in sound condition.

  • In practice, material to be deaccessioned may be transferred to other repositories, returned to the donor, offered for public sale, or destroyed.



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American Heritage Center 1990s

University of Wyoming

Mark Greene, [email protected]


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