CoPAR Bulletin 7
Council for the Preservation of Anthropological Records
Dedicated to helping anthropologists,
information specialists and others preserve and provide access to the
records of human diversity and the history of the discipline.
Saving Association Records
Every anthropological association produces and collects a wide variety of documents,
which represent its collective memory. These records are important for the history of the
discipline and for understanding its development and practice. Associations have
identities that are defined by their current activities and purposes but are also shaped
by their pasts. These pasts are contained in records that document past decisions and
actions, as well as debates about the nature of the discipline. Without these crucial
records, the only sources of understanding anthropology's history and corporate identities
will be published accounts, which are scarce, and individual memories, which are
ephemeral. All anthropological associations have responsibilities to their past, current,
and future members to document their decisions and actions. It is important that each
association develop policies regarding their records, and establish records management
It is the responsibility of officers, editors of journals and newsletters, and chairs
of ad hoc and standing committees to retain those association records necessary for
on-going business and preserve those needed to document the history and ensure the
corporate memory of an association. Likewise, it is the responsibility of each out-going
officer to determine which records are no longer needed for active business and to sort
them for archival disposition. Responsibilities may be spelled out in association by-laws.
Record retention policies and guidelines should clearly state which records are to be
kept, and when and where they are to be transferred. The guidelines should be published so
that all members know of them and new officers should be briefed on their importance.
Every association should designate a member as historian or appoint a history and
documentation committee to oversee and implement its record preservation policies and
practices and establish records retention schedules.
In general, any record that was created in the routine performance or special business
of an office or committee and that demonstrates the functioning of the association should
be retained. It is the responsibility of each officer to ensure that documents needed for
ongoing business are transmitted to his/her successor. This should be done as soon as
possible after the beginning of term of the new officer.
Documents no longer active should be transferred to the association historian (or chair
of the history committee) for coordinated transfer to the designated repository. It is the
responsibility of this individual to produce an initial inventory and subsequent
inventories at each transmittal or records. These inventories should remain part of the
active records of the historian or history committee. Records should be transferred to the
repository at two to five year intervals or after election of new officers. The historian
should temporarily hold all non-active records at his/her home institution until transfer.
He/she should also prepare and periodically up-date a listing of all items in the
If past association officers or other members hold inactive records in their personal
files, they should transfer them to the historian who should ensure that the records are
identified, inventoried, and added to those already placed in the repository.
Identifying Records for Retention or Archiving
An associations records should be differentiated into those that should be held
by the current officers, those that should be transferred to an archive when no longer
needed for current business, and those that may be discarded when no longer in use. If
there are any doubts as to whether an inactive record should be retained or discarded, the
association historian should with an archivist at the designated repository.
Records to be retained in the associations permanent files to meet legal
Official records necessary for the transaction of business (signature authorities), old
and current articles of incorporation of by-laws (copies of current legal document)
any legal documents, such as wills naming the association as beneficiary, deeds or
Records to be archived when no longer in use
Items reflecting general association business
- election and poll results, correspondence, etc.
- officers files
- reports (e.g., those presented at annual meetings)
- policy statements
- administrative and financial records
- minutes of association and committee meetings
- officers manuals and updates
Publications: journal, occasional publications, and newsletters
- copies of each journal and newsletter issue
- files relating to publication and review
- legal materials pertaining to publications
Special activities and task forces
- abstracts and programs of meetings
- special committee materials
- files and information concerning the history of the association
- audio-visual materials, such as audio and video tapes and photographs (fully identified)
- publicity (including press releases and media coverage)
Any records, such as anonymous reviews of manuscripts or proposed meeting sessions, for
which confidentially or anonymity was promised should be so marked and restrictions as to
future use noted. (Note: the editor of a journal should be consulted to determine what
agreements were made with reviewers. Records should be retained in such a manner that does
not compromise any promised confidentiality or anonymity.)
In cases where past officers or members have produced association records that may also
be considered as personal property (such as correspondence that is partly personal and
partly association business), a copy should be made and archived as part of the corporate
memory of the association.
Personnel records and medical records of association officers and staff are subject to
special legal constraints. Association officers and the association historian should seek
appropriate legal guidance about how such records should be handled.
Nancy J. Parezo
University of Arizona
Return to Guide
to Preserving Anthropological Records
for the Preservation of Anthropological Records