August 5th, 2013
Last month, we talked about informational value as one of the qualities contributing to the enduring value that archivists assess when acquiring materials. Another important quality of enduring value is evidential value, which the Society of American Archivists’ glossary defines as “The quality of records that provides information about the origins, functions, and activities of their creator.” The distinction between the two values is that informational value relates to the content of the records and evidential value relates to the process of creation of the records. While it is not always easy to tease the two values apart, both are important when considering what materials should be retained for future researchers.
Though they are not usually the most eye-catching materials in an archive, records preserved for their evidential value help researchers understand how the creator (an individual, family, or organization) functioned. Some examples of records with evidential value are policies and procedural documents, meeting minutes, and organization charts. The Arthurdale Homesteaders Club Records (A&M 182) contain the recording secretary’s diary of meeting minutes, which help us understand the function of that club as local self-government in the community of Arthurdale, WV, a planned community where impoverished families were relocated as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. The WVRHC also has a ledger of the meeting minutes from the founding of the Delta Nu Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honorary Society (in A&M 5151). As you can see on page two of the ledger, the toastmaster at the first initiation banquet was Dr. Charles Ambler, who is credited with creating the WVRHC.
Blog entry by Jane Metters.