Round and Round (An Appraisal and Acquisition Case Study)

Learning Objectives

  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of appraisal issues and make decisions given a specific scenario.


Approximately five minutes before you are heading out for lunch. You receive a phone call. On the phone is a well know local amateur historian, who has the “Find of the Century.” This find happens, as emailed photos would show, to be a slightly rough and worn looking spinning wheel. According to the historian, this spinning wheel features prominently in one of the town’s legends that involve the town mother, a cannon, a sailor, and the spinning wheel in question. He has no recorded provenance, beyond oral history and geographic circumstances, meaning the location it was housed in fits roughly with the legend’s narrative, for this spinning wheel. You are not the first institution that has been offered this spinning wheel. First, it was offered to the town’s history museum. The museum pointed him towards the historic house museum as the best spot for this treasure. The historic house museum suggested that your archive would be the best place for this artifact. Keep in mind that this historian has been a friend to your institution over the years, and has alerted your organization to record collections in crisis and helped on at least three occasions acquire small family collections. This historian is also on the board of a powerful grant organization in your region.


  • Do you take the spinning wheel?
  • If you don’t take the spinning wheel, how do you console the historian and maintain your professional relationship with them?
  • If you take the Spinning Wheel, how will you utilize this object with your other collections? How do you justify accepting  this item?


Craig, Barbara. Archival appraisal: theory and practice. 2004.

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