Transforming the current appraisal landscape at the Archives of Ontario: Open windows with fresh methodological frames

Suher Zaher-Mazawi


As part of a larger strategic planning initiative, the Archives of Ontario is in the midst of transformation. One of the objectives of this initiative is to become an Enterprise Records and Information Management leader within the Government of Ontario. In order to achieve this, the Archives of Ontario is revisiting the government records archival appraisal approach by challenging our current practices and opening up methodological horizons. The objective is to strengthen the government appraisal process by making more informed risk-based decisions that are more accountable and defensible for the benefit of our stakeholders. In doing so, the Archives is challenging its rules and institutional practice, and aiming to be transparent with our stakeholders through clear guidance and awareness on appraisal decision rationales.

In this presentation, we will discuss the approach that the Archives of Ontario is taking to ensure that the archival records of the Government of Ontario are appraised for their enduring value. We will outline our current practices, discuss some of the challenges we are facing and share how we are looking at new ways to transform our appraisal methodology to improve our practices and make them more efficient, informed, transparent, and accountable. Some of the questions we hope to include in this discussion are: What is the purpose of appraisal and how do we define it in the context of the Government of Ontario? What information is required to make a sound appraisal decision? Who needs to be involved in the appraisal process in order to make better decisions?


Suher Zaher-Mazawi is an Archivist at the Archives of Ontario (Government of Ontario). In addition to her regular duties of processing government and private records, leading private donations and doing reference work, Suher has been involved in the strategic planning to strengthen the Archives of Ontario’s leadership in records and information management within the Ontario Public Service. She is currently part of the Government Records Appraisal Working Group whose task is to propose a new approach to the appraisal of government records and make the process to become more efficient, informed, transparent, and accountable. She is also on the implementation team of an electronic document and records management system (ERDMS) within the Information, Privacy, and Archives division of the Government of Ontario; and on a government wide recordkeeping website project.

Prior to joining the Archives of Ontario in 2014, Suher worked for, and was consulted by, various organizations in the fields of records and information management in British Columbia. Suher received a Master’s in Library Studies and a Master’s in Archival Studies in 2009 from the University of British Columbia’s School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies. She was actively involved on the boards of the Archives Association of British Columbia and ARMA Vancouver Chapter. Suher also holds a Master’s degree in Exact Science Education (focus on Mathematics), and has over 15 years of experience as a Mathematics teacher and educator, which lends Suher’s pedagogical approach in her current work.