Roslyn Russell, Kylie Winkworth
© Commonwealth of Australia, 2010
ISBN 97 80977544363 (pbk)
Part 4 — The significance assessment process
Introducing the significance assessment process
Significance assessment is the process of researching and understanding the meanings and values of items and collections. There are three variations of the process for assessing significance: for single items; for a collection or parts of a collection; and for cross-collection projects.
Significance assessment variations
Figure 2. Three variations of significance assessment—single items to collections.
Cross-collection projects may include single item and collection components.
This chapter outlines step-by-step methods recommended for use with each variation of the shared process. The steps can be adapted and reinterpreted to suit the needs of specific types of collections or collecting domains.
Each method includes research, consultation, analysis, comparison, assessment, and summary in the form of a 'statement of significance'. Many of the steps are already part of collection documentation practice, although not all collecting organisations summarise the information and analysis in a statement of significance.
Choice of method and particular steps depend on the item or collection under assessment and how the assessment will be used.
In a complex single item assessment it may be helpful to include a scoping step, such as those proposed in collection ('review') and cross-collection ('plan') methods. The single item assessment method may be used before conservation of an item; the collection assessment method may be used in revising a collection policy or to support a grant application; and the cross-collection method may be used for collections mapping.
The different methods may be used together. A collection assessment may entail assessment of a number of highly significant items within the collection (using the single item method).
Those who are new to significance may find it easier to build their skills by undertaking a single item, or 'basic', assessment first.
This chapter includes two illustrated examples that show each stage of the step-by-step methods for a single item and for a collection. These are condensed examples that highlight some of the findings in each step of the assessment process.