This is a process by which Archives add to their holdings (collection) by accepting archival materials as donation, transfers, purchases or loan. Or It’s a process by which archives physically secure materials through Donations, purchase, gifts, loaning, transfer, legal deposit, bequest/will and re-institution.

Acquisition is done after record survey and record appraisal has been done respectively. Every institution should state and indicate clearly the following aspects after a lot of decisions and actions:

  1. The methods of acquisition
  2. Types of materials to be acquired
  3. The frequency of acquisition
  4. The procedure to be followed in acquisition

Factors to consider before acquiring Archival materials

  1. Finance
  2. Security
  3. Space
  4. Storage equipment
  5. Qualified personnel
  6. The quality and quantity of the materials

Methods of acquisition


These refer to the actual buying of archival materials and this method involves the transfer of ownership based on financial considerations. If archivist comes across some unique materials which cannot be obtained through any other means, the archivist can offer to buy them. This method is rare because archival materials are expensive. In this method the archivist must establish the legitimate owner of the records to avoid cases of wrong people selling a collection which is not owned by them.

Gifts and donations

It refers to a method that involves the transfer of ownership of records and has no financial consideration. It should be based on the following factors:

  1. The donor must be legitimate owner of the records
  2. The gift or donations must be very clear, meaning that the donor must state that the records are being donated and nothing more. The gifts or donations must be received by the receiver
  3. The records must be delivered to the institution being donated to if possible an agreement to documents the transaction to seal the deal might be necessary.

Legal Deposit

Is the statutory obligation on publishers and distributors to deposit at least one copy of every publication, free of charge in designated legal deposit libraries.


It refers to the act of arranging and describing the records/ archival materials of an archival institution for storage and use.

Archival Processor/ Archivist refers to the person in charge of processing archival materials.

Importance of processing Archives

  1. It makes archival materials ready for use
  2. It brings order in retrieval of archival materials
  3. It protects archival materials against loss and damage
  4. It saves time in retrieving archival materials
  5. It provide guidance on how to prepare a variety of archival materials for circulation

Methods or procedures of Archives processing

  1. Accessioning
  2. Arrangement
  3. Classification
  4. Description


It refers to a systematic process of scanning an archival material received and accompanying document (Transfer list) and recording the bibliographic details in the accession register.

Or it refers to a group term indicating additions to stock of library or any information centre. Or it refers to the act of taking documents into physical custody in an archival agency, records centre or manuscripts repository some particular information for its identification. All the items received are recorded or entered in the order of the order of their acquisitions. Each item received is given a unique number (accession number) to identify it for control purposes.The accession numbers recorded in an accession register and used until replaced by a permanent reference code. An accession register becomes the formal record of accessions of archival materials received by archives in which information on the immediate source and the broader provenance of the material is preserved permanently, items are numbered progressively as they are added to the stock.

Accessioning aims at establishing three types of control over a collection namely

  • Legal contol
  • Physical control
  • Intellectual control

This control ensures that archives have tittle to both physical and intellectual property of records. This means that the archives have control over the medium (physical) and the information contained (intellectual). The recording of the transaction either by way of deed of gift letter, purchase agreement, deposit agreements ensure that the records archives have been legally acqired.


Once legal control is assured the physical control follows. This involves possession of records through their transfer from creating office to the archives for actual receipt. Once received  archives documents the matter either by way to writing an acknowledgment letter or memorandum especially for the statutory or regulatory transfers, a thank you letter in case it was a gift etc. by this time the collection is on the repository in the loading dock or on the archivists’ desk.


This involves control over the contents of a collection. The archivist must work out a way of understanding the materials received. The archivist must establish where to place the collection as well as what is in it. The archivist documents in an accession log/ register his accessions. The register enables the archivist to have basic understanding of the accession. The archivist through the register is able to have preliminary description of the accession. Such documentations provides a form of inventory control over the total holding by nothing where each collection is located documentation also serves as temporary finding aid until more detailed arrangements and description are completed.

 Accession procedures

Accessioning consists of a sequence of different activities these includes:

Tying Accessions into Bundles

This involves a tying of the accession/ materials identified into budles using special facilities. This is done before the materials are transported. Once the process is completed they are then transported to the repository of an archival agency. A repository is where the records received are stores.

Checking the Contents of the Accession

This is done against the transfer form/transmittal form that accompanied the records. The form is a two part document where both the transferring department and the archieves must sign.

Preliminary Sorting of the Accession

This is done to determine the provenance. Determination of the source or provenance is very important because archives are products of works of life activities and can only be fully understood through knowledge of Willy and hero they were created and used it therefore becomes important to identify and record the provenance of a record. Accessionning by provenance will enable the archivists bring together all the records of an association, organization, company etc. even though they have been brought into the archives by different people at different times.

Accessioning Documentation

At this point the accessions are entered into an accessions register for better control. The archivist records information about each new accession in the register in a standardized manner. The register can be in several formats such as in:

  • A loose leaf folder
  • Individual accession sheet
  • Book form on card or
  • Computer database

The accessions register is a vital record for archives without which archives cannot perform its basic functions.



Put here the full names of the organization/person of agency that created/received or accumulated and used the records in the conduct of business of life. A standard format should be adopted for ease of filing.

Accessions number

This is the unique number which identifies each accession until further work is done during. It can be numerical number with an yearly prefix.


Briefly record that type of records e.g. files correspondence, ledgers, photos magnetic tapes and any unexpected material noted during appraisal.

Date Range

Put here inclusive dates of the creation of the materials.


These are shelf matres occupied by the accession, the number and types of containers may also be useful.


The exact location of every container forming the accession should be noted and to be precies, giving shelf or drawer Nos.

Access condition/copyright

A summary of access conditions should be given here with details placed on the acquisition files.


Information about the physical of the material whether or not a box list exists and any other information that may be of later use but cannot fit elsewhere.

Donor/Previous Custodian

In case of collecting archives, the donor is the person/ family/organization who sign the donation form if there was an intermediary who bbrought the material to be archived his/hhernammeshould also be recorded. For an in-house archive the previous custodian will be the transferring office.

It’s important to record thhe name of a contact officer in the office.

Acqusition File Number

Record the number of the file which has all the information relating to the accession.

Acknowledgement Date

Indicates the date on which formal written acknowledgement of receipt of the recordds was made.


The archivist who accessioned the material


The date accessioned was completed


  • Searching and retrieved purposes in archival institutions
  • Acts as a good inventory of the collection since it captures the basic details of the new accessions
  • Works well as an index, which is referred to when locating documents
  • Helps in future preparation of finding aids
  • Helps records managers and archivist to be able to make critical decisions about the newly acquired and also how the records should be stored
  • Helps records managers and archivist make critical decisions a out presentation and restoration of records and especially those records whose physical mature or contents are affected
  • An accession register can also act as a constant reminder to donors of their collections.


Other Documentation

The advantage of having the archives accession sheet in half is that copies can be made of either the top or bottom sections to create various finding aids to the records. Top half can be copied and the copies filed alphabetically by provenance and can act as a basic level of entry to the archives holdings i.e. by name of creating agency or person.


Accessioning is a most important process in archival work. Accessioning needs to be completed as soon as possible after receipt of records. It is the foundation upon which all further archival work is based. The completed accession sheets can provide to be able to give at any moment the archive history of any document.

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