[Toolkit  The Archivist's Toolkit


MARCH 1990


An acquisition policy is the instrument which provides the archival institution with the direction for making appraisal and acquisition decisions and allocating resources. It is the backbone around which the archival institution can acquire comprehensive holdings in a planned, coordinated, and systematic manner. It delineates the parameters of what archival records the institution is permitted to acquire or required to preserve and becomes the foundation for the development of more detailed acquisition plans and strategies, appraisal criteria, and related procedures. The acquisition policy becomes a reference for staff when assessing potential acquisitions and for donors looking for a suitable repository for their records.

On local, regional, and national levels acquisition policies can be used as the basis for cooperative acquisition strategies and as an important tool in planning for the systematic identification and preservation of our national archival heritage.


Acquisition policies are developed to meet the needs and levels of operation of individual archives. Just as archives vary in their complexity so too will their acquisition policies. This document raises those issues concerning acquisition common to the majority of institutions and provides a checklist of elements making up a policy statement.

The acquisition policy must reflect the institution's legal authority and should outline the general role and mission of the archival institution. Some institutions will have responsibility only for the records of their sponsoring body, some will have major responsibility for other records, and some will have responsibilities for both. However, in all instances the policy should address the archives' responsibility for the records of its sponsoring body.

The role of archives in today's society is to ensure that information required for legal, fiscal, evidential, historic and other purposes is maintained. When the archives' responsibility is solely for the records of its sponsor this may be relatively easy to define in the policy but the institution may need to consider whether it will also acquire records of individuals or subject areas connected with the sponsoring body.

For institutions acquiring records beyond those of their sponsor it is essential that collecting fields be defined. These should be established after considering both the strengths and weaknesses of the archives' existing holdings and in conjunction with the acquisition activities of other institutions in the region. These fields may be defined by a combination of the following: institutional or geographical boundaries; language; chronological units; cultural groups, professional or occupational disciplines or themes.

Resources available for the care and processing of records must be considered while developing the policy. Explicit statements may be necessary detailing the institution's policy towards non traditional archival media such as published books, newspapers, and artifacts.

The acquisition policy must establish who has the authority to decide which records will be retained by the archives. If applicable, acceptable acquisition methods should be listed. An archives responsible solely for the records of its parent body might only accept records for which appropriate disposal schedules have been completed. Other institutions might accept records only as an outright gift while others will consider many methods including purchase, bequest, trade, permanent loan, or loan to allow copies to be prepared. The policy should also give the institution the authority to dispose of those records which are no longer considered to have permanent value to the institution.

Staff responsibility in the acquisition process may also be outlined. Some archival media are highly collectable. Conflict of interest guidelines may be considered for inclusion to avoid the real or perceived appearance of staff acting on their own behalf.

The policy should receive approval according to the institution's accepted procedures. In some instances the approval of the head of the institution may be sufficient to give the policy the authority required to implement it. In other instances the approval of a higher authority may be appropriate.

Once approved, the acquisition policy should not be filed away and forgotten. It should be used actively in promoting the development of the institution. It should also be reviewed on a periodic basis to ensure that it accurately reflects the changing needs and requirements of the sponsoring body, the archives, its donors and users.


The following elements should be considered for inclusion in an acquisition policy:

1. Statement outlining the legal authorization establishing the archival program

2. Statement outlining the general role and mission of the archives

3. Statement outlining acquisition responsibility for

4. Definition of terms

5. Scope of acquisitions

6. Methods of acquisition

7. Roles and responsibilities

8. Conflict of interest guidelines

9. Distribution/Availability of policy

10. Approval of policy


The following draft of an acquisition policy is offered only as a sample of how some of these issues can be addressed. Each archives must develop their own policy to meet the needs of their own institution and community.


This document is designed to articulate the acquisition policy of the Provincial Archives of Manitoba in the context of its legislated and traditional mandates.


The Archives operates under Part II, "Public Records and Archives", of the Legislative Library Act, and provides central administration of the Freedom of Information Act.


The Archives serves the entire population of Manitoba and its institutions by protecting information and archival media of fundamental significance in establishing, maintaining, and developing community identities and individual or collective self knowledge, and which document the mutual rights and obligations entered into by its citizens and those whom the people chose to govern.


The Archives is responsible for the safe-keeping of essential primary records of the Government, Courts, and Conunissions which document custom and precedent, legal rights and obligations, transactions and accountabilities, operational activities and performance, administrative and management policy, directions and decisions, as well as those records principally of historical and cultural significance. The Archives is also obtaining a systematically selected sample through time and space of unique and irreplaceable archival materials from the private sector of society recording the aspirations and experiences of Manitobans. The Archives facilitates and monitors public access to government information as required by The Freedom of Information Act.


"Record" means any kind of recorded information, regardless of the physical form or characteristics, and without restricting the generality of the foregoing, includes correspondence, files, registers, indexes, bound volumes, maps, plans, drawings, diagrams, photographs, films, paintings, pictorial and graphic works, microforms, sound recordings, video tapes and machine readable records received or created, or deposited, on file and held by any organization or person, public or private.

Books or published materials are generally not acquired by the Archives unless there are special or compelling reasons for them to accompany acquired archival records. In some instances, the Legislative Library will be prepared to participate in a joint acquisition process.

Artifacts are generally not acquired by the Archives unless there are special or compelling reasons for them to accompany acquired archival records but are referred to an appropriate museum authority. In some instances, a joint acquisition process may be appropriate.


The Provincial Archives of Manitoba is the official repository for those records of the Government of Manitoba, its corporations and agencies, and the Courts which are deemed to be of enduring value to the people and institutions of the Province.

Any city, town, or village, rural municipality, school district, school division, or school area, may with the consent of the Provincial Archivist deposit any of its non-current records or other documents with the Archives for safe-keeping and preservation. Acquisition from these sources will be presented to the Private Sector Acquisitions Committee.

Any Government department, corporation, agency or Court may use the Records Centre for the safe keeping and preservation of its non-current records prior to the final authorized disposal through destruction or placement in the Archives.


The Provincial Archives may acquire by gift, bequest, loan, trade or purchase any record, regardless of physical form or characteristic, which has any bearing on the history of Manitoba through negotiation with the persons giving, bequesting, lending or selling the records. Acquisitions from these sources will be approved by the Private Sector Acquisitions Committee.


The Provincial Archives of Manitoba receives on deposit the records of the Hudson's Bay Company, deemed to have permanent value, under an agreement signed by the Government of Manitoba and the Hudson's Bay Company, dated July 31,1973.

The corporate records received from the Hudson's Bay Company and its wholly owned subsidiaries are those determined by a Committee, the members of which are listed in Section II of the agreement dated July 31, 1973.

Records having a bearing on the history of the Hudson's Bay Company may also be acquired from private sources by gift, bequest, loan, trade or purchase. Acquisition from these sources will be approved by the Private Sector Acquisitions Committee.


Notwithstanding intrinsic or informational values of records, acquisition of records will take account of the authorized acquisition mandates of other archival institutions, resources required to make the material available for research purposes in a reasonable period of tirne, the extent and terms of any restrictions, the legal rights of the donor to place the records in the Archives, their relationship to the strengths and weaknesses in the existing holdings, the availability of appropriate storage facilities and the physical condition of the records in relation to the probability of being able to conserve them for a reasonable period of time.

The ability of a locale outside of Winnipeg to keeps its records in a suitable repository open for public access will be a major factor in acquisition decisions. If records are to be acquired from a locale outside of Winnipeg, efforts will be made to the extent possible to leave either a copy in the locale or for the Archives to accept copies while leaving the original in the locale.

Broad year-by-year acquisition priorities will be articulated in the Archives' Goals and Objectives and in Program Plans for the annual Estimates review.


Provincial Archivist

The Provincial Archivist approves acquisitions policies, priorities, strategies and practices, chairs the provincial Documents Committee; and approves recommendations of the Private Sector Acquisitions Committee.

Provincial Documents Committee

The Provincial Documents Committee approves or disapproves the disposition recommendations brought forward by departments, corporations, agencies, and the Courts.

Minister Responsible for the Archives

The Minister authorizes or does not authorize the disposition recommendations of the Provincial Documents Committee through Ministerial Order.

Chief Judge

The Chief Judge as identified in the Legislative Library Act must first approve the destruction of records of the court under his or her jurisdiction before the Minister can authorize this disposition.

Private Sector Acquisitions Committee

The Provincial Archivist and the Responsibility Heads comprise the Private Sector Acquisition Committee. The Committee may invite outside members at any time, but these members do not form part of the common decision-by-consensus process. The Committee reviews acquisition proposals brought forward by staff and recommends to the Provincial Archivist whether or not and under what conditions acquisition proposals should be accepted. The proposals will normally be advocated before the Committee by the archivist conducting the acquisition contact.

All deaccessioning proposals will also be brought forward to the Committee.

The Committee may also hear and recommend on strategic acquisition plans or proposals for significant deviations from existing plans.

Responsibility Centre Managers, Supervisors, and Archivists

Responsibility Centre Managers, Supervisors and Archivists will develop acquisition strategies and plans to carry out the acquisition policy. They will advise and recommend on the transfer to the Archives of records of Government departments, corporations, agencies or Courts deemed to have enduring value. They will negotiate with potential donors in the Private Sector for the acquisition of those records having a bearing on the history of Manitoba and will bring these acquisition proposals to the Private Sector Acquisitions Committee.


The Conservation staff will advise on the preservation implications in the development of acquisition strategies and plans, and on the acquisition of individual records.


Staff members wishing to collect archival material which falls within the broad mandate of the Provincial Archives through trade or purchase for their own personal use, enjoyment, or profit require the written permission of the Provincial Archivist, preferably on the recommendation of the Private Sector Acquisition Committee.

In the case of windfall opportunity where this permission cannot be obtained in a timely rnanner, the articles must first be offered to the Provincial Archives at the same costs as the staff member incurred.


Copies of this acquisition policy will be made available to all staff, members of the Manitoba Council of Archives, The National Archives, and on request, to other interested organizations and individuals.


This acquisition policy has been recommended by the Archives Management Committee and approved by the Provincial Archivist on ........... 1990.


Copyright © 1990 Canadian Council of Archives.

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