Acquisition Policy

Western Archives and Special Collections Acquisition Policy

February 2019


This policy identifies the kinds of material that Western Archives and Special Collections acquires, and the general terms and conditions that affect their acquisition.

Western Archives and Special Collections acquires records of the University, records of individuals and organizations, and rare books, maps, and other special collections that complement the teaching and research needs and interests of the research community, at Western and beyond.

Western Archives and Special Collections acquires material in all media formats.  Acquisition decisions are based on relevance to the collection and the mandates of the Archives and Special Collections, Western Libraries, and Western University.  They also involve preservation assessments of the stability of those formats, as well as the physical condition and order of the material. Acquisition decisions are also dependent upon legal and intellectual access issues related to the material.

As Western has acquired archival and special collections material for nearly a century, it is recognized that historical collecting practices have varied over time.  This fact influences decisions regarding additions to existing holdings that may not conform exactly to the current policy.


Beyond these general considerations, Western Archives and Special Collections currently acquires records in accordance with the following specific criteria:

  • In order to document the development of the university as an incorporated institution, Western Archives and Special Collections acquires and provides access to university records and related materials. All acquisitions of university records must comply with the University Records and Archives policy (MAPP 1.30).
  • To document the life of the University community and its significant contributions beyond the campus, Western Archives and Special Collections may acquire the records of affiliated institutions and campus organizations, and the personal papers of faculty, students, staff, and alumni.
  • To support research and teaching, Western Archives and Special Collections may acquire archival fonds and selected artificial collections kept by various private institutions, organizations, and individuals (including faculty members).  In doing so, the focus is primarily on record creators of local scope or significance in and around London, Ontario. Current areas of strength are business, health and medicine, arts, and architecture, as well as London and area.

Records are appraised using the following criteria: relationship to the acquisition policy and other holdings, physical condition of records, value(s) of the material (administrative, operational, fiscal, legal, evidential, and/or informational values), teaching and research potential, access and intellectual property issues, and resource implications.

Records other than university records are acquired by formal donation to the university. Western Archives and Special Collections does not acquire records on deposit (on short-term or long-term loan).

With the exception of university records, the acquisition of other archival materials is carried out in cooperation with, and in consideration of the mandates of, other appropriate institutions. Records offered to Western Archives and Special Collections that appear to be more appropriately acquired by another institution will be referred to it for review.

Records Management

As per Western University Policy MAPP 1.30, Western Archives is mandated to provide “comprehensive records management services to the Board of Governors and Senate, Faculty councils, academic and administrative units, and committees of the University” (MAPP 1.30: 3.00(a)) and “to identify, acquire, arrange, describe, preserve, promote the use of, and make available those University records …which are of enduring historical, legal, fiscal and administrative value.” In addition, MAPP 1.30 also states that “all records created, received, used or maintained by officers and employees in the course of their duties on behalf of the University are the property of the University” (MAPP 1.30: 4.00).

In support of Western University’s Records and Archives policy, the Records Centre stores and provides access to “records created, received, used and maintained by the Board of Governors and Senate, Faculty councils, academic and administrative units, and committees of the University that are of enduring historical, legal, fiscal and administrative value, particularly those that document the functions, policies and decisions of the University” (MAPP 1.30: 19.00 (a)). Acquisition of these records and/or the disposal of them are governed by the application of approved Records Retention and Disposal Schedules or by direct transfer from the creating unit.

Special Collections

Special Collections material is intended to support the research activities of faculty, students, and staff, and the instructional requirements of programs in a wide variety of disciplines. Material is acquired through a purchasing process or by donation. The collection gratefully accepts gifts of materials in good condition which are within its scope of coverage and which either it does not already own or does not own in sufficient depth to support teaching and research needs.

Maps: The Serge A. Sauer Map Collection provides a comprehensive print and digital collection of world-wide coverage comprised of general and thematic, small and large scale maps; national, provincial or state, regional, and thematic atlases and related geographical materials. However, emphasis is placed on Canada, particularly Ontario and the Great Lakes. Although the main prominence is on contemporary publications, material portraying historical periods is also collected as appropriate. In addition to the large collection of maps (approximately 230,000 sheets) there are: atlases, air photos, and globes (various Earth, Moon and other planets). While English is the primary language of the collection, maps and atlases are produced in the national language(s) of the countries in which they are published, so many languages are collected.

James Alexander and Ellen Rea Benson Rare Books: The rare book collection at Western University includes manuscripts, printed books, and serials. Several areas of strength have been established, and these areas are the priority when considering the addition of new volumes to the collection. Other criteria include the rarity and condition of the material, its relevance to the teaching and research needs of the academic community, and how it might add to the future relevance and value of the collection.

Local History: The J.J.Talman Local History Collection primarily focuses on the collection of printed publications, historical and modern, about topics or people of local interest, or that are published by entities or individuals of local interest. It contains published material regarding Western University, London, and the surrounding area.