Special Collections and Archives blog

The Protocols for Native American Archival Materials

Did you know that the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials were drafted right here at Cline Library?

This Native American Heritage Month we would like to highlight some of the important work that we have been doing to implement the Protocols, as well as the work we have been doing to share our experience and lessons learned with others in the profession.

In April 2006, Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, Arizona hosted a gathering of Native American and non-Native American cultural heritage professionals who together drafted the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, a professional best practices document which outlined guidelines for culturally responsive care of Native American archival materials held by non-tribal institutions. NAU’s Cline Library and Special Collections and Archives formally endorsed the Protocols in 2006. Since then, the staff members of Cline Library Special Collections and Archives (SCA) have sought to integrate the guidance put forth by the Protocols into all aspects of their work, including collection development, collections management, and archival arrangement and description.

In 2019, SCA’s newly hired Archivist for Discovery, Sam(antha) Meier, began revising the department’s draft Arrangement and Description Policy to address issues common to academic archives and special collections, such as an extensive and growing backlog of unprocessed materials and outdated and inaccurate legacy description. Supported by colleagues at Arizona State University, she began to explore the possibility of using ArchivesSpace to more rapidly gain collection-level control over new acquisitions, update existing legacy finding aids, and transition the department’s EAD finding aids hosted in Arizona Archives Online from EAD 2002 to EAD3. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Meier collaborated with Library Assistant Manager Cindy Summers to begin a holistic review of SCA’s legacy finding aids to prepare for their eventual ingest into ArchivesSpace for revision and correction. Meier and Summers found ways to continue this critical work remotely, as neither were initially working in Cline Library.

Cognizant of the need to implement the Protocols at every step in archival processing, including re-description, re-arrangement, and re-processing, in the winter of 2020 Meier and Summers developed a fully remote paid graduate internship, the Archival Description Internship, intended to support an MLIS student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. The internship was designed to function as a “pilot project” for the department, allowing Meier and Summers to explore how to apply the Protocols to their legacy finding aids along with intern Liz Garcia.

In April, 2021 Sam, Cindy and Liz presented an ArchivesSpace webinar reflecting on their experiences early in this multi-year project.  Below are links to the webinar and to the slides that were presented.

Using ArchivesSpace  to apply the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials

Slides from the webinar

This September the project was featured in a blogpost series presented by the Description Section of the Society of American Archivists.  Below is a link to it:

Leaving Legacies: Re-mote Re-Description at Cline Library’s Special Collections and Archives

Our work will continue and we plan to provide periodic updates, right here.  So, stay tuned.

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