Documenting in Times of Crisis: A Resource Kit

The recurrence of both human-made tragedies and disasters of weather combined with the great speed of technological development lead archivists to a new role in society—as stewards of contemporary information. To assist cultural heritage responders, this resource kit provides templates and documents that will assist archivists in collecting materials on tragedies within their communities. We hope that sharing the documents collated in the toolkit will help archivists and others responsible for archiving the aftermath of tragic events by providing templates that are ready for use without further burdening cultural heritage responders.

The documents are designed to be a starting point and are meant to be customized for local use in consultation with communities, administrators, and legal counsel as necessary. The templates and documents are divided into broad categories linked below, or see the complete Google Drive folder here

Crisis Collecting Assistance Team

The SAA Crisis Collecting Assistance Team (CCAT) offers remote assistance with identifying best practices or logistics for  documentation, referrals to appropriate allied organizations, and general guidance on crisis collecting. CCAT volunteers include expert archivists who have all faced similar situations in leading and supporting  their staff through processing and documenting tragedies great and small. To connect, send a message via this online form, and a member will respond by phone or email within 72 business hours. 


Contact the Crisis, Disaster, and Tragedy Response Working Group (at with notes on broken links or suggestions for additional resources.

Immediate Response

Collection Management

Administrative Policies & Agreements

Digital Content

Emotional Support

Oral Histories

Manuals and Resources 

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Immediate Response

The following templates are designed for aiding in the collection and gathering of material. Although some of the files are volunteer focused, they contain useful information and strategies for acquiring material.

Before you begin collecting, we highly recommend questioning whether or not collection response is appropriate. More information regarding decision making processes regarding collecting and policies can be found in the “Administrative Policies and Agreements” section.

Contact Tracking
Suggested use is to track correspondence related to monetary, labor, and collection material donations.

Inventory Guidelines
Instructions on suggested data to collect when packing physical material from memorial sites.

Inventory Template
Spreadsheet template that can be used to collect data about material obtained from memorial sites.

Tragedy Response Preparedness Checklist
A checklist of actions and questions to undertake when responding to a tragedy.

Volunteer Agreement Form
Form for unpaid laborers to complete outlining responsibilities.

Volunteer Checklist
Provides tips and things to bring for individuals to collect material from a memorial site. Can be used to share with volunteers or to prepare staff.

Volunteer Procedures
Instructions and procedures for packing material collected from memorial sites.

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Collection Management

After material is collected, it will require ongoing management for preservation and access purposes. These forms are designed to help with hiring and budgeting for the collection.

Job Description
Basic example of an archival job description. Can be modified for internships, temporary staff, etc.

Management Budget
This is a multi-year budget plan that can be used as a template for granting agencies, local government funding, or internal management planning for costs related to storage, staff, supplies, consultant fees, etc.

Processing Budget
This budget template is related to costs to arrange and describe a collection for preservation and access. This template only reflects costs for processing physical material and not digital material.

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Administrative Policies and Agreements

These guidelines and policies address additions and changes that may need to be made for the acquisition of tragedy based material. They are intended as guidelines for individuals/organizations starting from scratch or making addendums/editions to existing policies. It can be crucial to document decision making processes to help lessen current and future confusion around decisions made.

Anonymous Donations Accession Policy
Designed to account for the material mailed, left on the doorstep, or at memorial sites.

Appraisal Policy
Policy to help identify and define community/organizational goals that may help decision making process on the acquisition of materials. 

Collection Policy Guidelines
Guidelines to help focus and explain the reasoning behind collecting material. It is very helpful to have a written policy to aid in conversations with press, communities, administration, etc.

Collection Policy Template
Drafted template based on the Collection Policy Guidelines. This template is meant to be edited and used as your situation dictates.

Deaccessioning Policy
There is a possibility that some material acquired may not have long term value, be out of scope of the collection policy, or have preservation issues that could be detrimental to other material. This policy helps identify rationale for removing material from a collection and how to do so respectfully.

Deed of Gift Template
The deed of gift is a formal and legal agreement between a known donor and the collecting repository, used to transfer ownership of and legal rights of the donated materials to the repository. 

Digital Deed of Gift Addendum
Can be used with existing deeds of gift to account for digital material.

Memorandum of Understanding
When multiple repositories and community organizations are responding to the same tragic event, it can be helpful to outline roles, responsibilities, and collecting strategies to prevent confusion and enhance collaborative efforts.

Organic Material Policy
Organic material may not be appropriate for archival retention. Having a clear policy about what is accepted, what isn’t and why, can be helpful to have on hand when asked.

Use Agreement for Digital Content
Alerts users/researchers to how they may use and reproduce materials in your collections.

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Digital Content

Digital Submissions Terms and Conditions
Template text to use when allowing digital content submissions.

Digitization Guidelines Bibliography
Bibliography of resources is provided for consultation when undertaking a digitization project.  

Documenting the Now
Open source tools for collecting, using, and preserving publicly available web and social media content with a focus on centering communities and supporting ethical practice.

Guidelines for Twitter Captures
Offers short descriptions and links to existing (as of Fall 2018) best practices and guidelines.

Web Content Crawling/Archiving Permission Form
Form for use by site owners identified by a repository granting said repository permission to archive web content on the site.

Web Content Crawling/Archiving Permissions Templates
Three templates that provide notification to website owner/creator to inform of intent to crawl and provide public access when legally possible. 

Website Archiving Nomination Form
Allows community members to nominate websites for content crawling.

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Emotional Support

Resources and ethical considerations when working with trauma-based collections.

Australian Society of Archivists course “A Trauma-Informed Approach to Managing Archives”
Self-directed online course to assist archivists and organizations in implementing a traumainformed approach to work and services.

Grief, Trauma, and Self Care Resources
Guidelines for responsibilities of managers and supervisors, tips for administration support, and links to national resources that may be helpful.

New Zealand Psychological Society, Emergencies and Traumatic Events Resources
Links directly to resources on the impact of trauma and building resiliency for individuals, parents, teachers, supervisors and colleagues.

UK & Ireland Archives & Records Association Emotional Support Guides
Guides to prepare and support archivists working with disturbing content and guide managers supervising archivists in that work.
Emotional Support Guide One
Emotional Support Guide Two
Emotional Support Guide Three

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Oral Histories

Your community may want to preserve the cultural impact of the event through oral histories. The following documents ensure that the oral histories can be preserved and shared.

Creative Commons Permission Form
Permission form states the interviewee(s) and interviewer intent to allow the repository to share the contents of the interview with the public.

Release Form
Form that indicates that the interviewee understands the purpose of the interview and grants certain permissions for use and sharing of the interview.

Web Guides to Doing Oral History
Links to the Oral History Association’s list of resources on how to conduct oral history interviews.

Copyright and Licensing Agreement
Indicates options for copyright and licensing agreement between the interviewee and the holding repository.

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Manuals and Resources

Many other individuals and organizations have created toolkits, guidelines, and documentation related to responding to tragic events. Although not all of these resources are specific to archives, they may be of help.

Psychosocial Guidelines for Temporary Memorial Management
Australian Red Cross pamphlet on managing memorial sites.

Bibliography of Disaster/Tragedy Literature as Related to Archives
Bibliography created by the Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force.

Resources for Archiving the Aftermath
Compiled and created resources on tragedy response in libraries and archives by Ashley Maynor.

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Approved by the SAA Council, August 2019. Last updated: September 5, 2019; February 2023.