Documentation Strategies in the Twenty-first Century?: Rethinking Institutional Priorities and Professional Limitations

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Since its introduction into archival theory nearly fifteen years ago, the documentation strategy approach has generated considerable debate within the archival community, garnering both advocates and critics. This discussion has been so widespread that Terry Cook has called documentation strategy "the single most important North American contribution to a growing debate on appraisal theory, strategy and methodology."(FN1) This paper will utilize a review of the professional literature to trade the evolution of the documentation strategy, consider the arguments that have been raised for and against it, and analyze several experiments with the concept to date. In addition, this overview will argue for the importance of documentation strategy as an appraisal tool, and will examine its relationship with functional analysis and macroappraisal. Finally, the paper will include the results of interviews conducted by the author to assess the impact that these three techniques, particularly documentation strategy, are having on North American archival practice.