The means by which I identified contexts to consider when answering this question are informed by the Guidelines for College and University Archives, published by the Society of American Archivists. The Guidelines state that a college or university archives serves as the institutional memory of the institution and plays an integral role in the management of the institution's information resources in all media and formats. In addition, I believe college and university archives must also document the culture of the institution as well as serving as the repository for the inactive administrative records and personal papers of faculty, staff, and alumni.
The Guidelines also describe the mission of university archives as contingent on the mission of the entire university. Drexel University's mission is "to serve its students and society through comprehensive, integrated academic offerings enhanced by technology, cooperative education and clinical practice in an urban setting." The SAA Guidelines also state that the mission of a university archives must also involve education through its activities, including its archival functions and support for curriculum and research. Accordingly, I believe the mission of the Drexel University Archives must involve service to students and society and should involve taking on an explicitly educational role. Like the broader Drexel University mission, the activities of the archives should be enhanced by technology. With a working definition and a sketch of what the mission of a university of archives should be, we can begin to identify contexts in which to answer the question.
There are a few contexts that are simple, and I also believe that they are fairly straightforward. The first is existence of a given practice. This is a simple either/or situation; either the practice exists, is underway, etc., or it's not. The second is necessity, either of a given practice to the operation of the archives itself, or on a larger scale, to Drexel libraries and the entire university. Unlike existence, the context of necessity is a continuum, ranging from a lack of necessity to mandated actions and policies that have significant impact.
In addition to the simple contexts, there are several contexts that are a bit more complicated. They can operate on a number of different levels simultaneously. They can also be reliant on each other. I've identified three particular contexts that are central to identifying ways in which to support the goal mentioned in the institution's strategic initiative. These are determining the focus within the DUA's resources, determining the forms of support for a given project or plan, and identification of a community to participate in that project or plan.
The second context relates to the types of support activities the Drexel University Archives can provide for a given initiative. These activities are the explicit means by which the Archives can meet its mission as well as that of the university. The most basic of these activities are the core archival functions: acquisition and appraisal, arrangement and description, reference and access, preservation, and outreach. These activities are already underway at the DUA, as these functions are common to all archives, regardless of their size or institutional setting.
The other types of support activities often relate to at least one or more of the core archival functions. Given that we are concerned with a university archives, we must obviously focus on the types of educational support we can offer the university community. There are two main forms of educational support that the archives can support, and both of them complement each other and exemplify the previous context. The first uses the collections either to support the curriculum or research, while the other supports the educational mission of the university through the services of the archives. An example of the two working together could consist of a particular class requiring the use of the Archives' collections and the university archivist providing bibliographic instruction for the Archives.
The university archives can, and often must provide administrative support to the university. This is particularly true if the archives are responsible in part or in full for university records management. The university archives can also assist other administrative units with their responsibilities, such as providing the alumni relations offices with photographs for publications. In addition, the university archivist must also expect to provide advisory support to the institution's administrative units, libraries, and occassionially to academic departments. Finally, to begin certain initiatives and support activities we have discussed, and to ensure that they are sustainable, the archivist must network with the appropriate constituents within and outside the university.