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documentation strategy

Broader Term: 

n. ~ A methodology that guides selection and assures retention of adequate information about a specific geographic area, a topic, a process, or an event that has been dispersed throughout society.


Documentation strategies are typically undertaken by collaborating records creators, archives, and users. A key element is the analysis of the subject to be documented; how that subject is documented in existing records, and information about the subject that is lacking in those records; and the development of a plan to capture adequate documentation of that subject, including the creation of records, if necessary.

(Cox 1990, p. 20) The term 'documentation strategy' was coined and initially defined at a session of the 1984 Society of American Archivists meeting that included papers presented by Helen W. Samuels, Larry J. Hackman, and Patricia Aronnson. The origins of the concept date from the early and mid-1970s efforts by some archivists to grapple with documenting social movements, minority issues, popular concerns, and other topics that were not well-represented in most archival and historical records repositories.
(Samuels 1986, p. 109) A modern, complex, information-rich society requires that archivists reexamine their role as selectors. The changing structure of modern institutions and the use of sophisticated technologies have altered the nature of records, and only a small portion of the vast documentation can be kept. Archivists are challenged to select a lasting record, but they lack techniques to support this decision-making. Documentation strategies are proposed to respond to these problems.
(Samuels 1986, p. 116) A documentation strategy consists of four activities: 1. choosing and defining the topic to be documented, 2. selecting the advisors and establishing the site for the strategy, 3. structuring the inquiry and examining the form and substance of the available documentation, and 4. selecting and placing the documentation.

A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology