Archives exist to save information for the future. This information comes in many forms, whether it be writing, music, batons or otherwise. At the Cleveland Orchestra archives, all of the above and more are part of their vast archival collection. Archivist Amy Dankowski has been in charge of the collection for a number of years now and was able to explain all about what types of things get stored and why. She explained that an archive isn’t just a haphazard pile of papers, but rather a very organized, structured method of storage and filing.
All archives are very unique and individualized, and therefore each have their own systems to on how to accomplish the task of filing items in a logical sense. The Cleveland Orchestra archives are no different, however most other archives will have theirs in a similar sort of way. First, the entire archive is divided into several smaller subgroups each containing items that are not duplicated in any other groups and which all are similar in some fashion, such finances. Within each group are collections of items that all came from a single source. Then, at the beginning of each source group is a document known as a finding aide. The finding aide explains what precisely is within that collection, how many boxes and linear feet there are, and what approximately is in each box. In addition, the finding aide gives a short background of the items, including previous owners and origin.
All archivists must write and maintain these finding aides, as such finding aides will usually need to be updated periodically as material is reorganized and possibly added to. In addition, nearly all archives are regularly expanded upon and condensed. This being the case, new material is always being sorted into relevant groupings and documented.
Archives are only valuable if they can be used in meaningful ways, it is a waste to spend resources on the upkeep of an archive if the material within isn’t being used for anything. For private businesses this generally means financial records, meeting minutes, and other important internal communication. And in some instances, old historical documents from the early days of said business. In the case of other institutions, often archives will be made of pamphlets and flyers and such things, along with scrapbooks put together over the years, in addition to finance records and minutes.