Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1 (Taught over 2 semesters)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials
Practical Up to 3 hours of practical work per week in Semester 2


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  2,500 - 3,000 words  50%
Semester Assessment Group practical project  50%
Supplementary Assessment Submission of supplementary coursework for failed course element in line with the learning outcomes of the original assignments 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

*Identify and appraise the policies and processes required for effective collections development and description;

* Critically assess a range of archival theories relevant to collection development and description;

  • Describe and discuss the archival principles which underpin collection development and description;

* Assess the practical application of archival theories and principles for collection development and description;

* Critically review current international and national archival descriptive standards and guidelines, and other relevant standards for finding-aid creation;

* Explain and critically review the functionality required from archive management software and the implications of electronic data exchange;

* Identify and give critical consideration to the challenges and benefits associated with providing Internet access to archive catalogues and/or archival material.

Brief description

This module is concerned with the core professional activities for Archivists of collection development and description. It will enable students to understand the principles which underpin collection development, and the policies and processes required for this to be undertaken in an organised and responsible manner. Students will consider the principles of archival description and the standards and technologies which support the creation of usable finding-aids, and digital surrogates of archival material. Maintaining accessibility to these over the long-term will also be addressed.


Lecture and Seminar Programme (Semester 1)
  • Policy and Process – Developing an Archives Collection
  • This session will take an overview of the activities required to develop an archives collection. It will examine the policies required to underpin collection development, and how these fit together to form a coherent strategy which will ensure long-term access. It will consider the activities these policies support, and the workflow required to implement them.
  • Collection, and Acquisition
  • This session will consider the process of collecting: how strategies and policies are defined, and how collections are developed. It will also look at the practical and legal aspects of the acquisition process.
  • Accessioning and Appraisal
  • This session will consider formal accessioning of material into the collection. This session will then consider Appraisal Theory and how this is determined by the value placed on memory and archives. It will look at the techniques and tools to undertake appraisal, the legal environment surrounding the process, and the development of policies to ensure legal responsibility and the impartiality of the archivist.
  • Principles of Arrangement
  • The unit will then consider the process of arranging the archive to ensure that the context of its creation is maintained, and the different approaches used in the profession.
  • Description for Resource Discovery
  • Archives collections cannot be accessed unless they have been described and these descriptions made available to the user. This unit will look at methodologies for creating suitable and useable finding-aids, and the interoperability of these between Archives Services to create Archives Networks. It will consider appropriate standards, metadata schemas and software to structure and support their creation and Internet delivery.
  • IT Solutions for Collection Development and Description
  • These sessions will consider IT solutions for Collection Development including critical assessment of a range of supporting software, and hands on workshops.

  • Digitisation for Collection Development
  • Digitisation is a widely used procedure for: show-casing archives collections on the World Wide Web, enabling remote access and creating preservation surrogates. This unit will look at the strategic and legal issues surrounding digitisation of collections, the costs and benefits, and the processes involved.
  • Ensuring Long-term Access
  • Digital material is inherently fragile and requires a set of managed activities to ensure that it remains accessible over the long-term. This unit will consider the activities required to maintain access to both digitised and born-digital material, and the policies and practices which underpin these.
Practical Project (Semester 2)
Students will undertake a practical group project to arrange, describe, create a finding-aid and recommend further action for a small archival collection, and personally reflect on the process.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Consideration of the specifications required to enable usable computer searching of archival descriptions and linkage to associated digital materials.
Communication A requirement to discuss and collaborate with members of the group in both seminar and practical work, and external professional archivists during practical work.
Improving own Learning and Performance Use of professional sources and documentation will foster student awareness of available learning resources, and improve critical and evaluatory skills.
Information Technology IT skills are integral to coursework and presentation of assignments. Additionally students will gain an understanding of the application of IT to archival description, digitisation and digital preservation.
Personal Development and Career planning The module provides an academic baseline and essential skills for archive professionals
Problem solving Assignment work and seminar activities will utilize professional scenarios in which strategies for dealing with particular issues and problems need to be formulated.
Research skills Assignment preparation will require the identification and location of relevant academic and professional literature, and best practice within the profession.
Subject Specific Skills Professional skills in the theory and practice of acquisition, appraisal, arrangement, archival description, digitisation and digital preservation will be developed.
Team work A group practical project will give the opportunity for extended team work.


This module is at CQFW Level 7