More product, less process

I had the opportunity to attend the Midwest Archives Conference fall symposium “More Product, Less Process�? (commonly referred to as the MPLP method) held Oct. 6-7 in Omaha, NE. The symposium focused on the major points made in the recent Greene/Meissner article “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing�? in the American Archivist. It also had several guest speakers attesting to the practicality and benefits of minimal processing.

In a nutshell, the Greene/Meissner article (see an earlier version) asks archivists to reconsider the status quo of processing benchmarks. They argue that there is no minimum standard practiced in processing as there is in description practices and as such archivists have a hard time determining the level of processing a collection may require. Instead, archivists tend to process all collections to the same granularity and in doing so waste time and resources and add to the ever growing backlog. Greene/Meissner advocate processing all collections to a minimum standard. At that point, the archivist can make further processing decisions based on the condition and use of the collection and the availability of resources. In reality most archives already function with minimally processed collections or provide access to collections that have not been processed at all. Greene/Meissner recognize this practice and are simply advocating that it become a working standard.

As for the AHC archives project, there are already over 70 collections of papers and records related to the health sciences and the Academic Health Center at the University Archives that are either minimally or formally processed. The project will add to this number by adding accruals to existing collections and bringing in new free standing collections. As the acquisition of new materials begins, processing plans will need to be developed at the time of acquisition. The MPLP method will be a great tool in managing this influx of materials. Stay tuned and I will try to point out the decisions made during the project and how minimal processing works or doesn’t work with specific collection material along the way.