Archiving Pro-Tip: Folder Numbering

An important part of archiving is folder
numbering. Each folder is given a number based on its position within a box. So
for example, the 5th folder in box 2 would be labeled, “folder 5,
box 2.” During the early phases of processing a collection, it can be tempting
to label a folder as soon as it is full and placed in a box. However, the best
time to number folders is toward the end during the process of creating a
folder list. 

Frequently, when archival collections are taken in
by an institution, items within that collection are not organized in any
particular order. In order to make the collection as accessible as possible to
researchers, some kind of order needs to be made of the collection. This means
dividing the collection into a few different series that intellectually make
sense. Common series groupings include biographical information,
correspondence, and photographs. Each collection is unique, as is each
archivist, so series titles and groupings vary from collection to collection.
Series can change throughout the processing stage depending on what items the
archivist discovers.

Oversized or oddly shaped items are another factor
to take into consideration while folder numbering. Even though intellectually
the oversized items may belong to the correspondence series, they will not fit
into the same size box as the other items. These items will be pulled and
placed in a separate oversize box. However they will remain in order with the
rest of the series item on the actual folder list. The folder list will notate
the separated location.

All of these factors affect what a folder is
numbered, and that is why the numbering process should not begin until the
creation of the folder list. Otherwise, you may have to renumber your folders
multiple times, taking up precious archival time.