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n. ~ 1. The process of organizing materials with respect to their provenance and original order, to protect their context and to achieve physical or intellectual control over the materials. - 2. The organization and sequence of items within a collection.


Archivist Oliver Wendell Holmes identified five levels of arrangement: repository; collection or record group; series; folder; and item. Many archives arrange records only to the folder level, although some archives arrange the items within each folder. Arrangement is often combined with the process of rehousing materials into archival containers and folders, and includes the labeling and shelving of materials. Though not widely practiced, arrangement can be employed in an intellectual sense, without a corresponding physical ordering of material. For example, five folders stored in four different boxes can be listed together in a finding aid as an ordered series without changing their storage location.

Arrangement with respect to original order presumes such an order is discernable. Archivists are not required to preserve 'original chaos', and may arrange such materials in a way that facilitates their use and management without violation of any archival principle.

Arrangement is distinguished from classification, which places materials in an order established by someone other than the creator.

(Holmes 1984, p. 162) Archives are already arranged – supposedly, by the agency of origin while it built them up day after day, year after year, as a systematic record of its activities and as part of its operations. This arrangement the archivist is expected to respect and maintain. Arrangement is built into archives; it is one of the inherent characteristics of 'archives,' differentiating them from nonarchival material.
(Miller 1990, p. 7) The process of organizing and managing historical records by 1) identifying or bringing together sets of records derived from a common source which have common characteristics and a common file structure, and 2) identifying relationships among such sets of records and between records and their creators.