Getting Started on Archival Projects

Margot Note

Margot Note

April 08, 2019

Starting work on an archival project can be challenging as your attention shifts from planning to action. When archivists allocate tasks and complete the scheduling, team members may not automatically start working. The archival project manager ensures work begins by making sure everyone knows who should perform what tasks and when each should start. Team members must be free to start work, and the essential materials and equipment should be available.

Even then, it’s often necessary to urge your team to commence the project.

The work of an archival project manager changes from developing frameworks to monitoring activities to ensure that everything progresses as planned. The attention of those managing projects never strays from planning because it keeps the balance between time, cost, and quality. Even when the project is about to start, a little more planning ensures that the transition from planning to activity is smooth.

Chart Your Milestones

A milestone chart focuses on planned events scheduled to occur at specific times in an archival project. Events may be the commencements or conclusions of tasks, equipment deliveries, reviews, or approval dates. The chart presents a broad picture of a project’s schedule and control dates. It’s a bar chart that shows start and end dates, deliverables, and external dependencies. It also lists critical events that highlight decision and completion points that require approval before the project can proceed.

Because it lacks detail, a milestone chart is unhelpful during the planning phase when more information is needed. However, it’s particularly useful at the start of an archival project because it provides a summary of the project’s progress.

Identifying Appropriate Resources

Work will be impeded if the necessary materials and equipment are unavailable or if the accommodation for the project hasn’t been arranged. The archival project manager handles resource allocation and utilization, but if the resources can be linked to areas of responsibility, relevant budgets can be delegated to other members of staff in functional departments.
Some resources must be managed by qualified people. If the project necessitates the handling of special equipment or materials, there may be statutes to observe. For example, in an archival repository, you might have new digitization equipment or preservation techniques to implement. In setting up the project, identify people with qualifications or experience to manage these areas of work.

Make Compromises When Necessary

Getting the appropriate resources for a project makes a difference. Working with fewer resources than you planned for, or assigning people with less experience, can delay the schedule. However, people, equipment, and materials are usually in short supply, so compromises are a probability. The project plan shouldn’t just list resource names or generic skill sets. If you can delineate the skill sets you need, when, and for how long, it’s easier to obtain resources or negotiate alternatives if the resources you want are unavailable.

Ready, Set, Go

Once you’ve finished planning and scheduling, you can start to execute the project. Execution is usually the most extended phase of an archival project and consumes the most energy and resources. As you work, ensure your plans are realized with precision and limited deviation. Consistently evaluate your plan to deliver the project as per the agreed specifications.

You may work with a core team for initiating and planning an archival project, but executing the project is the time when you bring on the rest of the team and acquire the equipment and materials the project necessitates. Procurement may be as easy as telling your team to start the project if team members come from within your organization. Once your team is in place, start your project and aim for success.

Margot Note

Margot Note

Margot Note, archivist and records manager, writes for Lucidea, provider of ArchivEra, archives collections management for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s. See more of Margot’s advice on running successful archival projects.

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