National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)

Development of an appraisal policy

Up until around 1970, archival appraisal was carried out to determine which government archival records did not require long term preservation and could be destroyed. Definitive disposal schedules were developed by the relevant archivist, in conjunction with representatives of the organisations concerned. This collaboration made it clear which interests or considerations should be taken into account, and their comparative weighting, based on first-hand and practical experience.
From around 1970 onwards, archival appraisal became more of a core activity for archivists and information managers. This was necessary because the number of tasks carried out by the government had continually increased since World War II and the archives were growing somewhat explosively. The State Archives Service increasingly turned its attention from disposal to preservation, and the question of which files should be selected for enduring preservation thus became increasingly important. Until around 1990, archivists tended towards a limited interpretation of this question and preservataion was focused on the ‘heart’ of the archive, namely the policy and legislative documents, and official reports. Material concerning implementation of policy did not legally qualify for preservation. But determining the heart of the archive required an analysis of all archival records on the grounds of their function within the archive, and that was a highly labour-intensive process.