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Everything You EVER Wanted to Know About Archives Budgeting

October 25, 2021 • History Factory

Your file cabinets are jammed with so much stuff, you can’t jerk them open without filing a workers’ comp claim. Your company’s myriad historical digital assets are scattered on different servers. And there are (really cool!) historic photos in your CEO’s office drawers that haven’t seen the light of day since the early aughts.

You know you can’t Marie Kondo yourself out of this (because one, a lot of things spark joy, and two, wow. There’s just a lot). You need help. You need a proper digitized archival system that documents, organizes and protect your company’s trove of heritage treasures. That much you also know.

What you don’t know is how much that’s all going to cost. And you’re the lucky one that gets to pitch the budget to the Powers That Be. Not all heroes wear capes!

Well, buckle up and let us take you, future hero, through the Land of Archives Budgeting. It’s a thrilling landscape guaranteed to enlighten you and make you question, um, everything you’ve ever known about corporate archival budgeting. Let’s ride!

Two Factors Seal the Fate of Your Company’s Archives Budget

We’ll get this out of the way: Budgeting isn’t fun, per se. But your company’s archives sure is. If left to your own devices, you could spend a good amount of time sorting through your historic letters, press releases, newspaper clippings and early photographs.

The sooner you can figure out your budget, the sooner you can start reaping the benefits of having your own archives. And that’s why you’re on this journey, so let’s get to it. It’s actually pretty simple when you boil it down.

The budget for your company’s archives depends on two things:

  1. How much stuff you have
  2. What you want to do with your stuff

The actual dollar amount varies widely from company to company, simply because of these two factors. And, of course, no two companies are the same. Even so, it’s possible to get more detailed about these key budgetary variables.

What you have, and how you are going to use it once it is archived. That’s where your archival budget journey starts.

Putting the Two Factors of Your Archives Budget Into Perspective

On your home computer, you have thousands of digital photographs and documents. In a hall closet, you have five shoeboxes of cards from your high school days, notes from friends, yearbooks and family pictures. This is your personal family archives.

To preserve it all, you first would need to build a system that sorts through and describes all those items. Every greeting card, every random note you saved. Then, you would need to digitize it all, because, if it’s digital, it’s that much easier for you to access whenever you need it.

Realistically, though, who needs to archive all that stuff? You don’t. And your company doesn’t need to, either. Some artifacts are worth keeping in perpetuity, while others aren’t. Still others may be worth hanging onto, just not taking up precious space in your fancy, digitized archival system.

Bottom line: The more material you have to sort through, document, digitize and store, the more it’s going to cost. Keep in mind that your archival budget should include more than just the initial setup costs. Because not only will you need the physical and digital infrastructure to support your archives, but you’re going to need someone to manage it, too. That means revisiting your items to double-check you really still want to keep all those birthday cards.

Your Company’s Archives Aren’t Ephemeral. Budget Accordingly.

Q1, Q2, Q3 or Q4 … in which quarter should your archives budget fall? The short answer is all of them, forever.

Look at it this way: When you establish an archives, you’re establishing a new way of life for your company. Instead of a one-time event or campaign, your archives is specifically curated to bring value to your company forever. We’re talking about the long game here.

So say your company’s 25-year anniversary celebration is fast approaching. Getting an archives set up is top of mind to help mark the occasion and augment the festivities. Unlike your months-long anniversary marketing campaign, your archives will last for a long time. Ideally for as long as your company does. That means you’re going to need a budget to keep it going. And going. And going.

Your primary budget consideration is to plan for it to be a recurring expense.

Now, your costs won’t stay the same forever. In fact, you can expect to invest more on the front end (with your two determining factors setting the pace).

Initially, you’re going to need to allocate enough money to set up the physical infrastructure (building space, shelving, proper climate control, for instance) to store your archives. Not to mention all the manual work that goes into sorting through your backlog of materials, documenting each piece, and digitizing it for easy access.

After establishing your archives, your recurring budget to keep it updated and managed properly will go down to a more sustainable level. One that the Powers That Be will be comfortable with — especially knowing how valuable it is to keep your company’s history alive.

Your Archives Benefits Your Entire Organization — Marketing  Doesn’t Have to Shoulder the Budgeting Burden Alone

Chances are, you aren’t the only one in your company who has a vested interest in your historical materials. No, marketing doesn’t have a monopoly on archives — and that’s a good thing. It means you have the opportunity to loop in other departments and merge your collective budgeting power.

Legal? Yep. They might want some reports and reference files processed and stored, and those documents don’t meet the criteria for records management. Old records are extremely useful for legal-ing, like proving that your company did a thing before a competitor did.

Advertising? You bet. There’s endless fodder for ad campaigns in your company’s own archives.

Communications? A no-brainer. Who better to nerd out over a vault of corporate stories—about, say, your organization’s first employee of color or the odyssey of bringing a beloved brand to market?

Facilities? Mm-hmm. They’ll have a stake in where archival stuff gets stored. But it’s not just about the square footage. Spaces that show off a company’s heritage can fundamentally shift impressions — for customers, for partners, for employees.

The Board? Maybe! Meeting minutes, strategic plans, and policy and procedure manuals are all prime archival material.

And sometimes the stars align and the timing is perfect: You are about to move into a new facility—and you also happen to need an archives. If that’s the situation, you could make the very reasonable case for your archives to be handled as a capital expense. We’re into archives, not accounting, but we do know that CapEx is a good thing, if you can swing it. It never hurts to ask.

There you have it. You know enough about archival budgeting to be dangerous, and that’s the way we like it. As you narrow down what your company’s archives are going to contain and what you want to prioritize within them, be confident that you’re moving in the right direction.

Each step is getting you closer to the archives that are going to rock your company’s world. Great job, hero!

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