Unless you are a library, or museum professional, you have probably not heard the term original order. So, what is original order you ask? It is an archival practice of keeping paperwork in the order it was first organized by the collections creator. When organizing paperwork, an individual does not always keep their personal records in alphabetical order, but in a way that makes sense to them. Now, why would archives want to keep items in this seemingly chaotic fashion?

Most of the time, archives will organize materials in chronological, alphabetical, or a combination of these different techniques for ease of access. Reasoning behind organizing materials in original order is usually contextual. The creator of the collection placed the records in a certain order based upon personal motives. Possibly, they kept all of their correspondence in order by subject, not chronologically. Thus, altering the organization of that correspondence could change the scope of the collection. One of the main missions of an Archivist is to uphold the aims and integrity of the collection, which means that sometimes ease of use comes in second, behind the creator’s intent.

The Allan Blank Papers collection employs both alphabetical and original order for organization. Scores are placed in folders alphabetically, but organized by original order within the folder.

 

Four Yeats Songs by Allan Blank

One example is ‘Four Yeats Songs’. When I opened the envelope containing this score, I discovered notes and sketches had been placed in the middle of the score. Well, I could separate the notes from the score and reorganize the materials into different folders. However, Allan Blank may have had a reason for placing the notes in the middle of the score that is not apparent at first glance. Perhaps, he decided to change the score on further examination, or maybe he wanted to keep the notes with the score to remember his thought process; the possibilities are endless. Therefore, I will keep items together, just the way Allan Blank wanted them.

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