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Starting From Scratch: Creating Synagogue Archives | Publications

VII. Conclusion

Establishing and maintaining an archives requires a significant commitment of time, money, and effort. All costs and responsibilities should be considered before deciding to organize a congregational archive. Archives are service organizations; they do not generate revenue and are not self supporting. The benefits of an archive are often subjective and intangible: promoting culture, preserving history, providing service, and increasing learning. Yet, as the founder of the American Jewish Archives has written, "indifference to the past and indifference to the future go hand in hand. Congregations which undertake to establish and maintain their own archives will serve both the past and the future."24 They will help preserve their own history and assist in maintaining and promoting Jewish identity.

The American Jewish Archives stands ready to assist congregations wishing to develop or reorganize their archives. This document lists only the basics of archival work. For further information please contact the

Office of the Archivist
American Jewish Archives
3101 Clifton Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio, 45220.
(513) 221-1875 phone, (513) 221-7812 fax
Email Kevin Proffitt

The published version of this web document, Starting from Scratch, Creating the Synagogue Archives, is also available from the American Jewish Archives for the cost of $10.00.

Kevin Proffitt is Senior Archivist for Research and Collections at the American Jewish Archives. He has published articles on archival theory and practice in journals such as American Archivist, Ethnic Forum, and Microfilm Review. He has served as president of the Society of Ohio Archivists.


  1. Portions of the introduction and conclusion were taken, courtesy of the author, from, Jacob Rader Marcus, "Your Congregational Archives," American Jewish Archives Publications Series (Cincinnati 1961), 3-4 and 12-13.
  2. See, for example, F. Gerald Ham, "Archival Choices: Managing the Historical Record in an Age of Abundance," American Archivist 47 (Winter 1984), 11-12. For a good overview of the development of collection policy and collection management plans see Faye Phillips, "Developing Collecting Policies for Manuscript Collections," ibid 47 (Winter 1984), 30-42.
  3. See, for example, Theodore R. Schellenberg, Modern Archives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956) 133-160. Schellenberg was among the first to write in theoretical terms about appraisal, and his theories still stand as the leading statement on appraisal. Schellenberg emphasized appraisal as it related to public (i.e. government) records, but his observations can be applied to private as well as public papers.
  4. "Planning for the Archival Profession: A Report of the SAA Task Force on Goals and Priorities," Society of American Archivists (Chicago, 1986), 8.
  5. Maynard J. Brichford, "Archives and Manuscripts: Appraisal and Accessioning," Society of American Archivists (Chicago: 1977). 1.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Kenneth W. Duckett, Modern Manuscripts (Nashville: American Association for State and Local history, 1975), 47-54.
  8. Judith Fortson, Disaster Planning and Recovery
  9. Duckett, Modern Manuscripts, 49.
  10. Many articles and books have been written on provenance. For example see, Richard C. Berner, Archival Theory and Practice in the United States: A Historical Analysis (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1983); Sharon Gibbs Thibodeau, "Archival Arrangement and Description," in James Gregory Bradsher, ed., Managing Archives and Archival Institutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 67-77; Theodore R. Schellenberg, Management of Archives (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965) and "The Appraisal of Modern Public Records," National Archives Bulletin 8 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service, 1984); and Barbara Reed, "Appraisal and Disposal," in Judith Ellis, ed., Keeping Archives, Second Edition (Port Melbourne: Australian Society of Archivists, 1993), 157-206.
  11. This section on arrangement is based on Megan Floyd Desnoyers, "Personal Papers," in Bradsher, ed., Managing Archives and Archival Institutions, 87-89. See also, Schellenberg, The Management of Archives, 100-105.
  12. Desnoyers, "Personal Papers," 88.
  13. Ibid. 89
  14. Ibid. 90
  15. The American Jewish Archives uses the USMARC Archival and Manuscripts Control format for cataloguing our manuscript materials.
  16. "Planning for the Archival Profession: A Report of the SAA Task Force on Goals and Priorities," 22.
  17. Schellenberg, Modern Archives: Principles and Techniques, 244. For a listing of standards governing access see the Society of American Archivists "Standards for Access and Appraisal of Gifts," American Archivist 37 (January 1974), 154.
  18. Found in Sue E. Holbert, "Archives and Manuscripts: Reference and Access," Society of American Archivists Basic Manual Series (Chicago: 1977), 28.
  19. Trudy Huskamp Peterson, "The Gift and the Deed," American Archivist 42 (January 1979) 61-66; reprinted in A Modern Archives Reader, 139-145. This is an excellent article covering donor negotiations, donor agreements, and issues of restricted collections.
  20. Ibid., A Modern Archives Reader, 142-143. 21. Holbert, "Archives and Manuscripts: Reference and Access," 9.
  21. James Gregory Bradsher, "An Introduction to Archives," in Bradsher, ed., Managing Archives and Archival Institutional, 13.
  22. Holbert, "Archives and Manuscripts: Reference and Access," 13-14.
  23. Marcus, "Your Congregational Archives," 12.