A brief history of the LAC macroappraisal methodology for government records

To fulfill its mission to preserve government's historical memory, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) must make decisions about the archival or historical value of the information created and maintained by government institutions. The document Preserving the Archival and Historical Memory of Government Archived PDF 344 KB, originally written in 2000 within the context of the previous legislative context (the National Archives of Canada Act), discussed the strategies and decision process involved in selecting and preserving information of national importance; many of these strategies and decision processes can still be seen in updated form in current LAC practices for appraising and acquiring government records. 

Appraisal Methodology: Macro-appraisal and Functional Analysis

Beginning in 1997, the then National Archives of Canada significantly recast its macroappraisal methodology, in part to incorporate the practical experience gained by archivists since its initial introduction in 1991, and in part to bring practice closer to theoretical precepts, some of which had been discussed in the published archival literature. The resulting integrated suite of documents outlining the structured appraisal methodology was developed in 2000 and officially approved by the National Archivist of Canada Jean-Pierre Wallot in 2001.

Two parts of the suite were methodological documents, written by principal author Terry Cook and reviewed by a committee comprised of government records archivists prior to their approval and adoption. Cook, a senior archivist at the Public and then National Archives of Canada between 1975 and 1998, served as the director responsible for the appraisal and disposition programme for government records in all media from 1993 to 1998.

Part A: Concepts and Theory

Summary: An appraisal rationale and methodology for archivists to encourage greater intellectual consistency in records disposition decision-making and in the logic of its explanation and presentation in appraisal reports. See Part A: Concepts and Theory Archived PDF 673 KB

Part B: Guidelines for Performing an Archival Appraisal on Government Records

Summary: Guidelines for archivists to follow in order to conduct individual appraisal projects, including provision of the elements of an appropriate appraisal research agenda and the basic methodological steps which can be utilized to make records disposition decisions within the context of macro-appraisal. See Part B: Guidelines Archived PDF 688 KB

A third internal document, “Drafting an Appraisal Report for the Disposition of Government Records” (February 2001, principal author Richard Brown), complemented these two methodological documents by providing guidance to archivists as to the information that needed to be included in the archival appraisal reports that supported records disposition authorities issued by the National Archivist of Canada.

Together, these three documents provided the foundation for all government records appraisal between 2001 and 2012.  

Today, the goal of archival appraisal of GC records remains the same:  to identify the best available source for documenting government activities of long-term interest to Canadians.  LAC continues to draw on macroappraisal methodology to identify records of historical or archival value for institutions subject to the LAC Act, emphasizing the context of records creation over content. Under our renewed and modernized macroappraisal approach, analysis is carried out to understand the role of the records creator within society and the Government of Canada, its relationship to other government institutions and citizens, and its mandate and activities over time.

For further reading on macroappraisal, see:

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