From the standpoint of SFU staff or private donors sending records to the Archives, a transfer is complete once the Archives has accessioned the records into our preservation system and assumed custody and control over them. For the Archives, however, this is just the first step in a longer process of preserving the records and making them accessible over time. This page briefly describes what happens to the records post-transfer. It also provides instructions for requesting access to files you have transferred.

Accession to backlog

On completion of a transfer, an archivist registers the transfer in our Accessions database (assigns an Accession Number). The archivist processes the Transfer Package through Archivematica, the Archives' digital preservation platform, and assigns it to backlog storage.

The records remain in backlog until an archivist arranges and describes ("catalogues") the materials in SFU AtoM, the Archives' online finding aid system.

If there are no access or privacy restrictions, digital access copies will be directly available from the SFU AtoM description.

Note that there may be a considerable time lag between accessioning (backlog) and full processing (arrangement and description).

Archival processing

Processing involves the arrangement and description of the materials, their integration into the existing archival holdings of the records creator, and the transformation of the Transfer Package into a standardized Archival Information Package (AIP).

The Archives always retains records in the original file formats in which they were transferred, but it may also create access and preservation copies in other formats according to rules set out in the Archives' Format Policy Registry (FPR) that is implemented in the Archivematica preservation platform.

During processing, an archivist:

  • Appraises the records in more detail; some files may be weeded or destroyed as having no enduring archival value.
  • Generates (through Archivematica) preservation and access copies of the files selected for retention.
  • Creates (through Archivematica) the finalized AIP and sends it to offline storage.
  • Assigns files to new or existing records series in the aggregate holdings ("fonds") of the records creator.
  • Creates / updates finding aid descriptions in SFU AtoM.
  • Reviews materials for access and copyright restrictions to determine whether or not the files themselves can be made available to the public directly through SFU AtoM.

Retrieval requests

To obtain a copy of digital files previously transferred to Archives, it is a good practice to first check the online finding aid in SFU AtoM, as a copy may be directly available online.

Many files, however, will not be available online because:

  • They are not yet described in SFU AtoM (remain in backlog).
  • They have been described, but not yet reviewed for access or copyright clearance (Access status = "pending review").
  • They have been reviewed but they contain confidential or personal information or are subject to third-party copyright restrictions; in these cases the records cannot be posted online for general public access.

If any of these situations apply, contact the Archives to request a retrieval.

  • Refer to the Transfer Completion Notices you received from Archives to locate the file in a transfer and identify the Transfer Number.
  • Email to request a copy, providing the File name and Transfer Number.
  • An archivist will consult with you to determine the best method of delivery (e.g. via SFU Vault).

Do not "return" your copy when you no longer need it for reference.

  • The Archives retains the original files; what it has sent you is a copy. 
  • You can typically retain your copy if it is needed for ongoing business purposes.
  • There may be situations where you should destroy the copy when no longer needed (e.g. if it contains sensitive personal or confidential information); consult with an archivist if in doubt.
  • If you do keep a copy, revise it and / or integrate into your active records, it now becomes a new record.

Last updated: June 12, 2024