Your convention, union, or body will want to use the
historical records; and you want that body to use the records
or it will soon lose interest in funding the archives. But providing
service to users takes time away from the work of preserving
the records. Finding a balance is necessary.
A. Adopting a Users Policy
From the beginning, determine what services the archives
will provide for users and state these in a users policy that
may or may not be part of the program statement adopted by your
Here are some questions to consider before writing
Who will the archives serve? anyone who requests service?
any member of a church connected with the convention, union,
or body? leaders of the convention, union, or body? Will leaders'
requests have priority over others' requests?
What services will the archives provide? information
about archival holdings? information from the archival holdings?
copies of items? loan of items? preparation of exhibits? Will
the archives have an area for researchers? Will there be limits
to any of these services? Will there be charges for any of them?
How much time can the archives staff give to user
services? How can limits be placed on the time spent serving
B. Serving Users
Once the users policy is adopted, make it known and
abide by it. Do not make exceptions.
Most requests for service will be for information.
You will want to provide information about the holdings of your
archives to all who might wonder where information is available
about your convention, union, or body. Such information could
be no more than a general statement that ______archives has the
historical records of ________ Baptist Union from _______(date
of earliest record in the holdings) through _________(date of
last record in the holdings). But it should include separate
mention of any items, record series, collections that people
might not expect to find with the records of ___________ Baptist
Requests for information from your holdings take more
time. Someone must receive the request whether it is made by
phone or mail or in person and must make certain exactly what
information is required. Someone must look in the historical
records for the information, research that may take a few minutes
but can take several weeks. Someone must phone or write and mail
the information to the requester.
Many requests are for copies: copies of reports, sermons, photographs,
programs, publications. If you have a photocopy machine, copies
are easy to make. But duplicating material has dangers. Making
copies may harm a very fragile piece of paper. Giving copies
of records removes those records from the control of your convention,
union, or body. Giving copies of some items in your archives
may violate copyright laws. For example, the person who preached
the sermon probably possesses the copyright to it. Find out what
the laws of your country require before making copies.
The United States copyright laws treat archives as
libraries and allow them to duplicate some copyrighted material
provided certain rules are followed. Archives cannot make complete
copies of published works, must keep a record of what has been
duplicated for whom, and must inform the person who receives
the copy that he or she cannot make copies of the copy. The duplication
form in Appendix A is used to inform the receiver and as a record
for the archives. A blank form is in Appendix B.
Some requests are for loans. As a general rule, archives
do not loan, for most of their holdings are one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable
items. Archives could loan second copies of publications. They
may be required to loan to certain leaders of their convention,
union, or body.
4. RESEARCH AREA
The archives may want to provide an area where persons
wanting information from the archival holdings can do their own
research. This area should not be in the room where the records
are stored. No one except authorized staff should ever enter
the storage room. Otherwise, the archives could not assure the
convention, union, or body that its records were secure.
To insure security, the research area should be located
so that a member of the archives staff can see the researchers
and watch that they do not remove any materials from the archives.
The research area can be small but needs a desk or table and
Persons who come to do research in an archives register
and are interviewed by a member of the staff in order that they
can be directed to the correct sources of information. They are
told the rules. (A sample of rules for an archives research area
is in Appendix A.) They seat themselves and a member of the staff
brings them the records, one box at a time.
The archives may be asked to prepare exhibits for
permanent display in a headquarters building or for temporary
display at meeting place, Exhibits draw attention to the history
of the convention, union, or body, and to the archives.
Once you have been told or have decided the theme
of the exhibit or what story the exhibit should tell, choose
the items that best tell that story. Use different kinds of items:
letter, program, minutes, photograph, newspaper clipping, artifact.
To get color, place the items on colored mats and/or drape the
exhibit table or case with colored textiles.
Discover what security there will be for the exhibit.
You can not allow irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind items to be displayed
unless they are in a locked case or under constant guard. If
such security is not possible, make copies of the original items
and display them. You may prefer to display copies even if the
exhibit will be protected.