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

Towards a new appraisal policy

In 2006, the Council for Culture issued an important piece of advice regarding the current approach to archival appreciation and appraisal: ‘The excessive deficit’. At the core of this advice was the observation that archival policy, particularly as it concerned appraisal and selection, was too focused at a detailed level on public records. The government should instead aim to develop an integrated vision that considers which records, including those created by non-governmental bodies, they should capture and preserve in order to document modern day society.

A different perspective

The question of archival appraisal was first considered over half a century ago in relation to the weeding of a single archival file. It is now considered far more broadly, and with a more extensive scope: which information produced by modern-day society do we wish to carry forwards for future Dutch society? In essence, the question remains the same, only the perspective has changed: from archive to government, and now from government to society.

Two challenges

In the meantime, new challenges have arisen that require a more radical revision of the appreciation and appraisal policy and methodology currently utilised by the government. Digitisation of the government’s information management has taken place at high speed. Digital information is volatile, and it is therefore essential that archival records in a digital environment are appraised early, preferably at source or at the point of creation. This means that retention schedules must be established for use with as yet unformed digital archives.
Furthermore, paper-based heritage dating back to 1975 must be appraised. This comprises around 800km of paper, even just for State records. Processing this vast collection is not very practical if file has to be appraised according to the current retention schedules.

To address both of these challenges, the State Archives Service has collaborated with its partners in the Ministries to develop a new approach, one which is consistent with the vision from the Council for Culture. Read more in Projects