Archival Continuing Education (ACE) Guidelines (2017)

Adopted by the Council of the Society of American Archivists, November 2017


Archival continuing education (ACE) provides professional archival knowledge beyond the formal credit/hour structure of education institutions. ACE connects with individual archivists in all phases of their careers by delivering basic, intermediate, and advanced courses in the areas of archival knowledge listed below.[1]

These guidelines encourage lifelong learning opportunities within the archival community and specifically apply to providers or sponsors of archival continuing education. Others will find them useful, including practicing archivists, allied professionals, employers, archival educators, accrediting agencies, and those who fund, oversee, support, work with, or use archives or who participate in archival continuing education.

Continuing education is typically focused on applied practice but should be grounded in archival principles, theories, histories, and values. All programs should engage the latest developments, technologies, and best practices in the knowledge areas.

Areas of Archival Knowledge

Archival continuing education programs should address the areas of archival knowledge delineated by the Society of American Archivists Guidelines for Graduate Programs in Archival Studies (GPAS) and the Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA)[2]:

  1. Nature of Records and Archives: The theory and history of archives and the archival profession; social and cultural history; records-keeping models; relationships to allied professions; familiarity with professional standards and best practices; and use of appropriate research methodologies and technological solutions.
  2. Selection, Appraisal, and Acquisition: The theory, policies, and procedures that archivists use to identify, evaluate, acquire, accession, and authenticate archival materials, in all forms.
  3. Arrangement and Description: The intellectual and physical organization or verification of archival materials in all forms, and the development of descriptive tools and systems that provide both control of and access to collections.
  4. Preservation: The strategy, practice, and administration of physical and intellectual protection of materials in all forms, in order to ensure their continued accessibility. This includes environmental controls, material stabilization, storage and housing, handling and security, reformatting, and migration.
  5. Reference and Access: The practices and policies guiding the contextualization, evaluation, and/or use of archival resources to serve the information needs of various user groups.
  6. Outreach, Instruction, and Advocacy: The theories and practices that archivists implement to identify needs and to develop programs that promote the value and/or use of archives by individuals and communities. These activities facilitate comprehension of archival materials and archival work, increased use and primary source literacy, expanded resources, improved and new community relationships, visibility, and support.
  7. Management and Administration: The principles and practices archivists use to facilitate all aspects of archival work through careful planning and administration of the repository, unit, or program, its institutional resources, and its policy making practices.
  8. Ethical and Legal Responsibilities: The laws, regulations, institutional policies, and professional standards that apply to the archival community and its users, including intellectual property, sensitivities, and privacy concerns.

Specialized Courses

Courses that address specialized topics such as formats, allied functions, or repository type are also appropriate. These can be specialized courses or part of courses addressing the above areas of archival knowledge. Such topics may include:

  1. Digital Materials: Methods to manage born-digital records and digital surrogates, including means to address the specific nature, issues, and preservation challenges of digital archives.
  2. Collaboration with Allied Professionals: Methods to work with creators and managers of information, including records managers, rare book librarians, cultural heritage workers, conservators, information technologists, museum professionals, oral historians, public historians, educators, and social and community organization professionals.
  3. Innovative Areas: Archival practice is informed by and informs a range of influences, including interdisciplinary approaches to research; new and emerging theories, practices, and technologies; and subject specialization.

Delivery Options, Courses, Evaluation

Different instructional format and venue options exist. Matching the needs of participants and topics being taught with the optimum format and venue is important. Courses may include, but are not limited to, workshops, seminars, institutes, in-house training programs, and professional association meetings, as well as emerging distance and online educational delivery mechanisms.  Providing low cost, widely available continuing education should be the primary goal.

Course information and materials must be appropriate to the intended subject, duration, delivery mechanism, and audience.[3] Course developers will create learning materials based on identified needs and will incorporate and assess learning outcomes using recognized assessment methods and formal evaluation instruments.  Instructors should be qualified in their fields.[4]

Providers must consider accessibility when developing and offering courses and make efforts to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. Providers must have a policy for handling ADA-related requests. Any materials promoting and advertising CE courses should contain information about how participants may request reasonable accommodations to address their special needs. Instructors and students should evaluate specific continuing education courses.  Developers and providers of individual courses and multi-class programs should evaluate the total range of courses offered over time to avoid needless duplication or competition.[5]

Appended to these guidelines are materials intended to serve as a general “toolkit” to aid continuing education providers and users in developing and preparing to attend continuing education offerings:

Appendix 1: Evolution of the ACE Guidelines
Appendix 2: Recommended Guidelines for Evaluating Instructor Qualifications
Appendix 3: Effective Delivery Formats
Appendix 4: Guidelines for Evaluating Continuing Education Programs

Appendix 5: Guidelines for an Ideal Course and Curriculum Development


[1] ACE "courses" is a generic term that includes workshops, seminars, clinics, institutes, short courses, e-learning, recorded programs, and webinars.  See Appendix 3: Effective Delivery Formats.

[2] The Areas of Archival Knowledge list is taken directly from GPAS and informed by the ACA General Knowledge Statements.