A basic duty of the archivist is the acquisition of archives. In certain circumstances that acquisition process starts at the time that the archivist involves himself in the management of current and semi-current records for it is at that point that decisions are being made as to how the records will be organised. what will be destroyed, at what point it will be destroyed, and what will be retained permanently as archives. While opinions will differ, and indeed accusations have been made that some records managers want to usurp archival functions and vice-versa, it would still seem that archives that are the residue of a planned and systematic records management process are bound to be of an enhanced quality in comparison with those that have survived by accident rather than by design. When the archivist plays no role in the current and semi-current stage of the records he places himself in a passive role in which he waits for the archives to be sent to him or conducts the records surveys periodically to determine what should be given archives status. The danger in this is that by the time the archives reach the archival institution irreparable and irreversible harm may already have been done and this is especially true of machine readable records. While 31 respondents to the second questionnaire felt that they were satisfied with the way in which their records were being handled in their institutions, fourteen indicated that there were shortcomings and that damage to records may be occurring. Several of those who answered in the affirmative on this point felt it necessary to qualify their response by adding that they thought that the records were being satisfactorily handled given the situation and the constraints that existed.
There are also some archives that do not get transferred to the archival institutions. Quite often records of Deeds Registries or of the Registrar of Companies remain extant in the departments themselves as long as the properties or companies to which they relate remain in existence. Such retention by the ministries and departments should however still be in liaison with the archival institution that should have the ability to oversee the welfare of such archives. Where these records have been automated, it should be a requirement that a master tape be transferred and stored in the archival institution.
The necessity of retaining archives in ministries and departments should however be minimised The overriding consideration should be the extent to which they are still required for the fulfilment of the functions of that organ. Their continued retention also often poses serious problems especially since those who retain them do not appreciate their archival value. And yet the responses to the two questionnaires brought out clearly that a good proportion of archives were still held by the creating agencies or that transfer to the archives took place very late.
Assuming that the archives have in one way or another survived to reach the archival institution then the archives must be processed, stored, preserved and made accessible. This involves various techniques which while acquiring certain peculiarities in specific institutions and societies nevertheless have broadly recognisable general characteristics.
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