Collections development

Collections development policies describe:

  • what an archive service collects and why
  • when and how archives are transferred
  • where there are gaps in collections.

There are different approaches to collections development but all are designed to ensure that it is an active, open and ongoing process. Drafting or revising a collections development policy is an opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of an archive service.  It can enable future collecting to:

  • be more representative of culturally diverse communities and local or regional strengths
  • encourage engagement with records from new or non-traditional sources
  • re-direct use and interpretation of existing collections

Frameworks and guidance

We have developed this three-part guide to help inform and improve current practice.  Each of the separate sections can be read independently but together they explain the theory and practice of collections development:

  • Understanding Collections provides a theoretical framework for understanding why collections development is important with examples of different approaches and methodologies.
  • Writing a Collections Development Policy and Plan is a practical guide to implementing policy and planning, including for those working towards to Archive Service Accreditation.
  • Case Studies include examples of collections development in practice from different types of archive service.

Deaccessioning and disposal

To meet the Archive Service Accreditation standard, archive services need to have policies, plans and procedures in place covering all collections development activities including deaccessioning and disposal.

Deaccessioning should be done rarely and with great care, and should be seen in the context of strategic collections development.

Use our guidance to:

  • find out what deaccessioning means for archives
  • explore relevant ethical, legal and regulatory issues
  • get practical assistance with decision-making

Deaccessioning and disposal: guidance for archive services (PDF, 0.33MB)

Revisiting collections

The Revisiting Collections guide by Collections Trust supports museums and archives to open up their collections for reinterpretation and knowledge capture by community groups and external experts. This helps build and share a new understanding of the multi-layered meaning and significance of objects and records.

Designed specifically for archive services, Revisiting Archive Collections is another practical toolkit by Collections Trust which offers a standardised approach to collecting and incorporating that knowledge into existing collections information.