Frequently Asked Questions

Systematic Processing, What is it?

Standard archival practice requires archivists to maintain the original order of materials as much as possible while arranging, preserving, reviewing, and describing the materials in preparation for making them available to the public. The best method to preserve the "provenance" (original order) of the materials is to process them systematically. Systematic processing begins with the archivist surveying the collection of an office or individual to determine what series may exist in the records. Series normally consist of a chronological file, name or alphabetical file, correspondence file, or a subject file.

Archivist carefully noting the original locations of particular files as he/she assembles them into one or more series. At the George Bush Presidential Library, the original location (or box) is identified with a five digit OA/ID (Oversize Attachment/Identification) number such as OA/ID 05667. In some cases, the number is preceded with a "CF" designation indicating that the files are sensitive (but not necessarily classified).

After the archivist assembles the series, he/she begins processing at the beginning of the alphabet (subject file/name file/correspondence file) or the earliest date (chronological file). During the course of processing the records, the archivist will review for and remove restricted information, preserve damaged documents, refolder the materials into acid free folders, and place the materials into acid free containers normally referred to as "Hollinger Boxes." After completing the review/preservation process for an entire series (chronological, subject etc.), the archivist creates a finding aid that describes the series in general terms. Please note that the finding aid is not an index of individual documents. Bush Library policy prohibits archivists from searching for individual documents unless the researcher can specify a particular box and folder. After a notification period when the representatives of the current (whoever it may be) and former president (George Bush) are informed of the materials to be opened (required by law), the processed materials are made available to researchers.