Archival Workflow

This section outlines the main steps of the archival workflow. Each of the eight steps in this subchapter includes a table consisting of four sections:

  1. General tasks related to the archival workflow activity, regardless of medium;

  2. The tasks related to processing analog archival materials;

  3. The tasks related to processing born-digital materials; and

  4. Links to documents related to the approval of each workflow phase. When completing documentation, please include documentation in English as it is the primary language of OSA. Documentation can be included/provided in Hungarian as well.

Feel free to print the table and use it as a checklist to ensure all of the appropriate tasks have been performed.


Appraisal is the process of identifying if materials offered to an archive have sufficient value to be accessioned. The value of an archival unit is determined based on an evaluation of its permanent, or archival value, which can be based on historical or cultural enduring value, if the records align with the mandate of the acquiring institution, among other measures. The archival value or corporate records can also be predetermined according to the Records Retention Schedule, approved by the Chief Archivist, which defines the retention of temporary and permanent records. Appraisal can take place prior to donation of archival collections and prior to physical transfer or after a collection’s accession.

Appraisal may be conducted by taking samples from the collection and completing the Appraisal Report based on the samples and the inventory of the documents. The Appraisal Form will be submitted to the Chief Archivist to help determine whether or not the archival unit will be accessioned.

  1. Step 1 Appraisal Tasks (regardless of medium)

performed by the acquiring archivist/technician

Checkmark when completed

  1. Clearly establish the provenance.

  2. Create/Check inventory of documents to be accessioned.

  3. Is the content or records are duplicated elsewhere in existing holdings; is the content documented at OSA or another institution in an easier to use format?

  4. What is the relationship of the records to current collection and/or collecting project?

  5. Do the records fit OSA’s mandate and acquisition policy?

  6. As appropriate, establish the financial value.

  7. Are the records considered vital records?

  8. What are the costs of acquiring and preserving the records?

  9. Related legal guidelines; possible restrictions

  10. Anticipated use of the records

b. Step 2 Additional Analog Appraisal Tasks (2a)

Often performed with support of a technician

c. Step 2 Additional Born-Digital Appraisal Tasks (2b)

Often performed with support of a technician

Check when completed

2a.1 Establish the storage medium

2a.2 Perform preservation measures as required

2b.1 Preliminary appraisal

2b.1.1 Create/check inventory of digital content to be accessioned

2b.1.2 Check the accessibility of medium

2b.1.3 Check accessibility of files

2b.1.4 Virus check

2b.1.5 Appraisal of metadata provided by donor

2b.2 Full appraisal (after transfer)

2b.2.1 Identify the format

2b.2.2 Characterization

2b.2.3 Risk analysis: format obsolescence; medium obsolescence

2b.2.4 Identify the necessary preservation measures related to format; medium; naming; authenticity; integrity

2b.2.5 Establish the preservation cost and capabilities estimation

Step 3 Appraisal Reporting (regardless of medium)

performed by the acquiring archivist/technician

Check when completed

  1. Submit Appraisal Report to Chief Archivist

  2. Document in email or in the Appraisal Report the decision on the acquisition

  3. Receive the Letter of Intent: Donation and Letter of Intent: Deposit

  4. Upload the Appraisal Report and Letter of Intent to the AMS

d. Appraisal Documentation

  1. Appraisal Report

  2. Letter of Intent: Donation [HU/ENG]

  3. Letter of Intent: Deposit [HU/ENG]


This is the safe delivery of records from the donor or depositor to the archives. The procedure needs to be conducted in compliance with mandatory steps to avoid loss and damage of archival materials.

a. Step 1 Transfer Tasks (regardless of medium)

performed by the acquiring archivist/technician

Checkmark when completed

  1. Create time plan, ensure availability of human resources

  2. Ensure availability of transferring vehicle

  3. Ensure availability of room in the archives’ repository for records transferred

  4. Separate materials to be transferred from materials not to be transferred

  5. Ensure that supplementary documents (inventories, etc) are ready to be transferred

b. Step 2 Additional Analog Transfer Tasks (2a) Often performed with support of a technician

c. Step 2 Additional Born-Digital Transfer Tasks (2b) Often performed with support of a technician

Checkmark when completed

2a.1 Containerization and ensure the collection is physically prepared to be transferred (packaged, items are identifiable)

2b.1 Ensure adequate space in OSA repository

2b.2 Check transfer size: total number of files, folders

2b.3 Label all physical mediums (provide a sequential number, title, reference to supplied metadata)

2b.4 Preserve original structure of digital materials

2b.5 Ensure donor metadata donor is accessible and attached

2b.6 Choose a safe transfer method and media

2b.7 Transfer digital records as a set of folders and files with accompanying metadata files (complete Submission Information Package)

2b.8 Delivery

2b.9 Copy the collection to a shared drive under the supervision of the acquiring archivist

2b.10 Post-transfer appraisal tasks related to the transfer of born-digital records. Please see appraisal section of the workflow, section b.2.

Step 3 Transfer Reporting (regardless of medium)

performed by the acquiring archivist/technician

Checkmark when completed

  1. Ensure transfer was conducted in compliance with the Letter of Intent produced at the time of the collection’s appraisal

  2. Complete Acknowledgement of Receipt forms, donation and deposit: listing of records received

  3. Upload a copy of Acknowledgement of Receipt to the AMS

d. Transfer Documentation

  1. Acknowledgement of Receipt (donation) HU/ENG

  2. Acknowledgement of Receipt (deposit) HU/ENG


Accessioning is to take legal and physical custody of a group of records or other materials and to formally document their receipt. Accessions are performed by the Chief Archivist and senior archivists.

Some of the steps listed here are performed in the Archival Management System (AMS). For additional support and more in-depth guidance on how to use the AMS, please see Chapter 2 of this manual.

  1. Step 1 Accession Tasks (regardless of medium)

performed by the acquiring archivist/technician

Checkmark when completed

  1. Ensure all files have been delivered in accordance with the Letter of Intent and Acknowledgement of Receipt.

  2. In the Archival Structure AMS module, create the Fonds, assigning Fonds identifier number and a Collection Title. If the accession is a sub-unit of a collection create a new entity on the appropriate level.

  1. In the Accession module of the AMS, Create/Assign a ‘Donor Record’.


  1. Complete the Accession module in the AMS.

  1. Paper copies of the documentation related to the fonds including the Acknowledgement of Receipt, the Letter of Intent (donation/deposit) may be submitted to OSA’s Records Management division to be filed for reference.


b. Step 2 Additional Analog Accession Tasks (2a)

performed by the acquiring archivist/technician

c. Step 2 Additional Born-Digital Accession Tasks (2b)

performed by the acquiring archivist/technician

Checkmark when completed


2b.1 Register newly acquired digital object in the asset registry.

d. Accession Documentation

  1. ‘Accession Form’ is created in AMS.


Processing refers to the implementation of physical and intellectual control over archival holdings, i.e. arrangement. The arrangement of an archival unit refers to its organization, in the case of both analog and digital records, in accordance with its original order and provenance.

At OSA the term ‘processing’ is used synonymously with ‘arrangement’.

Archival processing is a complex iterative process. Physical and intellectual processing is generally performed in parallel as the intellectual structure may be refined frequently during the physical processing. The intellectual structure may be finalized only when the physical processing is ready.

Note: Some archival collections may be cataloged as a library special collection if the entire collection is well segregated and has no integral parts within the archives, i.e. Samizdat collections without additional records or complete microfilm collection without paper equivalent.

  1. Step 1 Accession Tasks (regardless of medium)

performed by the acquiring archivist and/or technician

Checkmark when completed

  1. Analyze the archival unit and any relevant contextual information.

  1. Based on the analysis (1), identify and name the logical hierarchical arrangement of subcategories of the records.

  2. Input the archival unit’s hierarchical structure into the Archival Structure module of the AMS. The Chief Archivist and Senior Archivists have the authority to produce archival structures. Folder/item level processing can begin when the archival structure has been inputted into the AMS.

4. Create a processing plan

4.1 Complete the Processing Plan documentation

4.2 Set up milestones and deadlines for processing and post-processing tasks according to the options offered by the Processing Plan

4.3 Upload Processing Plan to the AMS

b. Step 2 Additional Analog Processing Tasks (2a)

performed by the acquiring archivist and/or technician

See Appendix H Processing Rules

c. Step 2 Additional Born-Digital Processing Tasks


performed by the acquiring archivist and/or technician

Process in compliance with Digital Processing Workflow.

Checkmark when completed

2a.1 Physically separate books, periodicals and ephemera items from the archival unit. These items will be processed in the Library Management System, Koha, by the Head Librarian. Two copies of publications produced by the creator should be kept within the unit along with ephemera, if they are part of the archival unit.

2a.2 Input the arrangement into the AMS

2.1 Create the hierarchical archival


in the AMS module Archival Structure.

2a.3 Arrange folders and Items. If justified, organize the documents within series’ in alphabetical, chronological or numerical order or other variations as required.

2a.4 Revise and update Master Location Register if needed.

2b.1 Convert accessioned files to maintainable formats if needed (original master copy to be kept)

2b.2 Create derivatives:

2b.2.1 Preservation copy

2b.2.2 Access copy

2b.2.3 Thumbnails, previews

2b.2.4 Maintain concordance between the file derivatives by ensuring that the file names are identical, only the file extension (and compression rate) differs.

2b.3 Save preservation copies to safe network storage

2b.4 Save access copies to a shared drive and available for researchers if needed

d. Processing Documentation

  1. Processing Plan

  2. Catalog Manual Appendix H Processing Rules

  3. Digital Processing Workflow

Archival Description

Archival description is defined as creating an accurate representation of an archival unit by describing the content, context and records systems that produced it, as well as the results of these processes. The creators of archival materials should also be described in ISAAR-CPF records. These descriptions should contain inclusive contextual information about the creator or custodian.

A fonds’ archival description corresponds directly to the hierarchical levels of arrangement of the collection identified in the Processing step of the archival workflow.

Information provided at each level of description reflects only that level.

a. Step 1 Archival Description Tasks

ISSAR and ISAD(G) descriptions generally produced by archivists, folder and item level descriptions often produced by technicians and students

Checkmark when completed

  1. All archival descriptions should be produced in accordance with the Metadata Style Guide found in Appendix C.

1.1 The ISAAR Authority Record describes the creator or

custodian of the fonds

1.2 Fonds, sub-fonds and series level descriptions, or ISAD(G) descriptions

1.3 The container list contains folder and/or item level descriptions

  1. If the original language of the collection is not English, create translated descriptions in accordance with OSA’s Language Policy. OSA’s catalog presents English language records first. See Appendix B Supporting Policies / Language Policy

  2. Proofread

  3. Obtain approval from Senior Archivist or project lead

b. Step 2 Additional Analog Description Tasks

c. Step 2 Additional Born-Digital Description Tasks



d. Archival Description Documentation



The preservation of an archival unit means to protect it from deterioration by rehousing it, removing contaminants, providing appropriate treatments as required.

Preservation is an ongoing process that typically begins soon after the collection is acquired.

For photographic, moving image and sound collections reformatting is required which includes activities like choosing a different container or carrier and transferring the item onto the new media.

  1. Step 1 Preservation Tasks

Initial preservation tasks generally performed by acquiring archivist. Later preservation tasks to be performed as required on analog materials and by the Preservation Officer on digital media

Checkmark when completed

  1. Refer to preservation tasks carried out in Appraisal section of this workflow.

b. Step 2 Analog Preservation Tasks

performed by Preservation Officer

c. Step 2 Born-Digital Preservation Tasks

performed by Preservation Officer

Checkmark when completed

  1. The environment of the archive is maintained with preservation in mind. Once processed, all materials must be placed in a storage environment that meets the requirements for long term preservation of the materials in the collection. The following criteria must be met:

  • safety from pollution and pests

  • controlled temperature

  • controlled relative humidity

  • controlled lighting

  • ensured storage security

  • appropriate containers and folders

  1. Review of preservation format and codec used within digital files, annually. It is recommended that this activity be performed prior to the annual report.

  2. Format conversion if needed

  3. Media migration if needed

  4. Review checksum of master copy

d. Preservation Documentation

  1. All preservation activities should be described in the Internal Notes field in the AMS at the time of their execution, without fail.


Publication refers to the publication of the archival description and the Finding Aid in OSA’s electronic catalog, making them accessible to researchers. Publication facilitates the research of archival collections and supports their accessibility.

Publication can also refer to the publication of electronic items in OSA’s Digital Collections and curated collections.

The archival descriptions and Finding Aid descriptions are referred to as ‘records’ or ‘metadata records’.

  1. Step 1 Publication Tasks

performed by the archivist or technician responsible for processing and description in cooperation with IT

Checkmark when completed

  1. Translation: translation will be necessary if the original descriptions and Finding Aids are not in English (Appendix B Supporting Policies / Language Policy)

  2. Proofreading and corrections: Both English and non-English versions of descriptions and Finding Aids are to be proofread and revised by copyeditor and the Senior Archivist

  3. Approval: the Senior Archivist must approve the archival descriptions

  4. Publication: publish the descriptions and Finding Aids online

  5. Propagate: share the published records using web 2.0 tools, write a post for OSA`s website to further surface and propagate the collection.

Reference Services

Reference Archivists provide research and reference support to researchers. Reference Archivists are the intermediary between the archival materials and researchers, they maintain the order and accessibility of the collections used in the Research Room and when possible, they provide additional contextual and historical information about the archival collections.

Reference services are also provided by archivists who perform processing and description activities because they can potentially provide additional rich contextual information about an archival unit as a result of their relationship with the material.

Written by Emily Hanlon on Monday April 11, 2016 - updated on Thursday September 1, 2016