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Archives Terms

Based on selections from the SAA Glossary

TermDefinition
access the ability to locate relevant information through the use of catalogs, indexes, finding aids, or other tools
access point A name, term, phrase, or code used as a heading in a catalog, especially to group related information under that heading.
accession to take intellectual and physical custody of materials, often under legal or policy authority
accrual Materials added to an existing collection; an accretion.
acquisition the process of seeking and receiving materials from any source by transfer, donation, or purchase
active records Records that continue to be used with sufficient frequency to justify keeping them in the office of creation; current records.
administrative history a narrative or chronology of an organization that provides context for understanding its records
architectural drawing A sketch, diagram, plan, or schematic used to design, construct, and document buildings and other structures.
appraisal the process of identifying materials offered to an archives that have sufficient value to be accessioned
archival value the ongoing usefulness or significance of records, based on the administrative, legal, fiscal, evidential, or historical information they contain, justifying their continued preservation
archivist a professional with expertise in the management of records of enduring value
arrangement the process of organizing materials with respect to their provenance and original order, to protect their context and to achieve physical or intellectual control over the materials
artefact a physical object that is made or modified by human culture
audiovisual Having sound and pictorial attributes, especially when combined.
authenticity The quality of being genuine, not a counterfeit, and free from tampering, and is typically inferred from internal and external evidence, including its physical characteristics, structure, content, and context.
author The individual, group, or organization responsible for the content of a document.
authority control the process of establishing standardized names and index terms for use in archival or bibliographic description and ensuring their consistent application
backlog materials received by a repository but not yet processed
bequest a gift of property made through a will
born digital originating in a computer environment
business archives Records created or received by a commercial enterprise in the course of operations and preserved for their enduring value.
cartographic record Materials that use images, numbers, or relief to represent physical or cultural features of the earth or celestial body (or portion thereof).
case file a collection of documents relating to a particular investigation or in support of some administrative action
cassette A container holding a roll of tape or film stored on two cores.
catalogue a collection of systematically arranged descriptions of materials
cataloging The process of providing access to materials by creating formal descriptions to represent the materials and then organizing those descriptions through headings that will connect user queries with relevant materials.
circa Approximately; about.
chronology A document that describes events or other information in their order of occurrence.
classification The organization of materials into categories according to a scheme that identifies, distinguishes, and relates the categories.
cold storage A technique for extending the life expectancy of materials by keeping them at a temperature below room temperature, thereby reducing the rate of deterioration.
collecting archives A repository that collects materials from individuals, families, and organizations other than the parent organization.
collection materials assembled by a person, organization, or repository from a variety of sources
compact disc A 120mm (4.7 inch) digital optical disk, commonly used for sound recordings and computer data, that stores approximately 600 MB of data in a spiral track.
confidential Kept secret within an authorized group.
conservation The repair or stabilization of materials through chemical or physical treatment to ensure that they survive in their original form as long as possible.
conservator A professional whose primary occupation is the practice of conservation and who, through specialized education, knowledge, training, and experience, formulates and implements all the activities of conservation.
content The intellectual substance of a document, including text, data, symbols, numerals, images, and sound.
context The organizational, functional, and operational circumstances surrounding materials' creation, receipt, storage, or use, and its relationship to other materials.
continuing value the usefulness or significance of records based on the information they contain that justifies their ongoing preservation
contributor An individual or organization with secondary responsibility for the creation of a collaborative work or a collection.
controlled vocabulary an enumerated list of terms preselected from natural language and chiefly used to aid discovery in information retrieval systems
copy A duplicate made from an original.
corporate archives Documents and other materials created or received by a group of people (a company, an organization) in the course of operations and preserved for their enduring value.
corporate body An organization or group of individuals with an established name that acts as a single entity.
corporate memory The information in records and in individuals' personal knowledge that provide an understanding of an organization's or group's history and culture, especially the stories that explain the reasons behind certain decisions or procedures.
correspondence Written communication, especially those sent by courier or post; letters.
counterfeit An item that is falsely represented as the thing it imitates; an unauthorized copy presented as an authentic original; a forgery.
creator The individual, group, or organization that is responsible for something's production, accumulation, or formation.
curator An individual responsible for oversight of a collection or an exhibition.
custodial history The succession of offices, families, or persons who held materials from the moment they were created.
custody care and control, especially for security and preservation
data Facts, ideas, or discrete pieces of information, especially when in the form originally collected and unanalyzed.
database Information that is accessed and updated through software (a database management system) that has been organized, structured, and stored so that it can be manipulated and extracted for various purposes.
deed of gift an agreement transferring title to property without an exchange of monetary compensation
description the process of creating a set of data representing an archival resource or component thereof
digital involving or making use of computer devices, data, or media
disaster plan Policies, procedures, and information that direct the appropriate actions to recover from and mitigate the impact of an unexpected interruption of operations, whether natural or man-made.
disposition Materials' final destruction or transfer to an archives as determined by their appraisal.
document Information or data fixed in some media.
documentation Materials created or collected to provide facts for reference, especially when created to substantiate decisions, actions, or events.
donation Material for which legal title is transferred from one party to another without compensation.
donor An individual or organization who gives property or money to another without reciprocal compensation.
donor restriction A limitation placed on access to or use of materials that has been stipulated by the individual or organization that donated the materials.
enduring value the usefulness or significance of records based on the information they contain that justifies their permanent or ongoing preservation
ephemera Materials, usually printed documents, created for a specific, limited purpose, and generally designed to be discarded after use.
evidence A record, an object, testimony, or other material that is used to prove or disprove a fact, or used to support an understanding or argument.
exhibit An organized display of materials.
family papers records created or collected by a group of individuals closely related by ancestry and relating to their personal and private affairs
file a group of documents related by use or topic, typically housed in a folder (or a group of folders for a large file)
finding aid a description that typically consists of contextual and structural information about an archival resource
fonds the entire body of records of an organization, family, or individual that have been created and accumulated as the result of an organic process reflecting the functions of the creator
function The activities of an organization or individual performed to accomplish some mandate or mission.
functional classification A system for organizing materials on the basis of activity or program (function).
genealogy The study of ancestry.
genre A distinctive type of literary or artistic materials, usually characterized by style or function rather than subject, physical characteristics, or form
glass plate negative A photographic image that uses glass as a base and in which the image polarity reversed from the original.
graphic records A broad class of records that are primarily images, as distinguished from textual records.
hard copy A document made using paper or other durable media that is in human-readable form.
hardware Physical, mechanical, and electrical components of a system, especially a computer.
hierarchical description A technique of writing a finding aid by describing the collection from general to specific, starting with the whole, then proceeding to the components (series, subseries, folders, and items).
historical value the usefulness or significance of records for understanding the recorded human past
holdings The whole of a repository's collections.
holograph An original document entirely in the handwriting of its author.
human-readable Capable of being recognized and understood without mechanical assistance.
imaging The process of copying documents by reproducing their appearance through photography, micrographics, or scanning.
inactive records Records that are no longer used in the day-to-day course of business, but which may be preserved and occasionally used for legal, historical, or operational purposes.
inclusive dates The dates of the oldest and most recent items in a collection, series, or folder.
index An ordered list of headings that points to relevant information in materials that are organized in a different order.
indexing The process of creating an ordered list of concepts, expressed as terms or phrases, with pointers to the place in indexed material where those concepts appear.
information A collection of data, ideas, thoughts, or memories.
ingest the process of accepting electronic content or metadata into an electronic repository or database
institutional archives A repository that holds records created or received by its parent institution.
integrity The quality of being whole and unaltered through loss, tampering, or corruption.
intellectual control The creation of tools such as catalogs, finding aids, or other guides that enable researchers to locate relevant materials relevant to their interests.
keyword One of a small set of words used to characterize the content of a document for use in retrieval systems.
lantern slide A transparent image on glass, approximately 3½ × 4 inches, that is intended to be viewed by projection.
Library of Congress Subject Headings A controlled vocabulary typically used to provide topical access points for catalog records.
letterhead Stationery with information about an individual or organization printed at the top, and sometimes the side or bottom.
long-playing record A sound recording on an analog disk measuring ten to twelve inches in diameter, with a playing time of more than five minutes at 33⅓ revolutions per minute.
machine-readable In a medium or format that requires a mechanical device to make it intelligible to humans.
magnetic media Materials in various formats that use a magnetic signal to store information.
manuscript A handwritten document.
media migration The process of converting data from one type of storage material to another to ensure continued access to the information as the material becomes obsolete or degrades over time.
memory The knowledge of events, people, places, and other things of the past.
metadata a characterization or description documenting the identification, management, nature, use, or location of information resources (data)
microclimate The physical conditions, especially temperature, humidity, pollution, and air movement, within an enclosed space.
microfilm high-resolution film used to hold highly reduced photographic images of documents and printed materials, especially when stored on reels
microform A general term used for any medium, transparent or opaque, that holds highly reduced reproductions.
minutes A record containing notes of actions taken and comments made at a meeting.
monetary appraisal The process of determining a fair market value for materials.
moral rights the legal right of creators to have their works attributed to them and to protect the integrity of their works
moving image A generic term for a visual work that has the appearance of movement.
natural language Verbal communication in a form normally spoken or written by people.
negative A photographic image, usually on transparent film or glass, with reversed tones.
news clipping An article or photograph cut from a newspaper or magazine; a clipping
nonrecords Materials not considered to fall within the definition of an official record.
off-site storage Facilities for housing materials away from where they are used; remote storage.
Open Archival Information System A high-level model that describes the components and processes necessary for a digital archives, including six distinct functional areas: ingest, archival storage, data management, administration, preservation planning, and access.
open records law a statute that guarantees the public has access to information held by governments
operating system Software that controls the basic functions of a computer and its components, including memory, hardware, system utilities, applications, and network connections.
operational records Records that relate to the substantive activities an organization undertakes to accomplish its mission or mandate; program records.
optical disk A platter used to store large quantities of data that can be read using light.
oral history An interview that records an individual's personal recollections of the past and historical events.
original The first complete and effective version of a record.
original order the organization and sequence of records established by the creator of the records
outreach the process of identifying and providing services to constituencies with needs relevant to the repository’s mission and tailoring services to meet those needs
pagination The nature in which a work is numbered.
paleography The study and analysis of ancient writing, including the identification of origin, period, and the formation of individual characters.
papyrus Sheets of writing material made by weaving strips of pith taken from the plant Cyperus papyrus.
parchment a writing material made from stretched and scraped sheepskin or goatskin
patron An individual who uses the collections and services of a repository; a customer, a researcher.
permanent records Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, intended to be preserved because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator.
permanent value the ongoing usefulness or significance of records that justifies their perpetual preservation
personal papers records created and originally kept by an individual
photocopy A duplicate made using an optical system that quickly and inexpensively reproduces an image of the original without an intermediate negative.
photograph A still picture formed on a light-sensitive surface using an optical system and fixed by a photochemical process.
physical control the establishment and tracking of the location of holdings in a repository’s custody
pixel An element in an array that forms an image.
practical obscurity the principle that private information in public records is effectively protected from disclosure as the result of practical barriers to access
preservation the professional discipline of protecting materials by minimizing chemical and physical deterioration and damage to minimize the loss of information and to extend the life of cultural property
primary source material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness
print Paper or a similar flat material that bears text or a design that has been transferred or impressed from a plate, block, or screen.
privacy the quality or state of having one’s personal information or activities protected from unauthorized disclosure by another
proceedings A record of business conducted at a meeting, especially the published papers of a conference; transactions
processing preparing archival materials for use
provenance the origin or source of something
publication A work that expresses some thought in language, signs, or symbols and that is reproduced for distribution.
publisher An individual or organization that produces and markets creative works for distribution.
Rules for Archival Description Canadian standard for the description of archival fonds
rag paper Paper made with cotton or linen fiber, instead of or in addition to pulp.
reading room A secure space area designed for patrons to work with a repository's holdings.
reappraisal the process of identifying materials that no longer merit inclusion in an archives and that are candidates for deaccessioning
record Data or information in a fixed form that is created or received in the course of individual or institutional activity and set aside (preserved) as evidence of that activity for future reference.
record copy The single copy of a document, often the original, that is designated as the official copy for reference and preservation.
recordkeeping The systematic creation, use, maintenance, and disposition of records to meet administrative, programmatic, legal, and financial needs and responsibilities.
records centre A facility used for low-cost storage of inactive and semicurrent records before those records are destroyed or transferred to an archives.
records management The systematic and administrative control of records throughout their life cycle to ensure efficiency and economy in their creation, use, handling, control, maintenance, and disposition.
records manager An individual responsible for the administration of programs for the efficient and economical handling, protecting, and disposing of records throughout their life cycle.
reference A service to aid patrons in locating materials relevant to their interests
reference copy A copy of a record kept for easy access to the information it contains, as opposed to its intrinsic or evidential value.
reference interview A conversation between an archivist and a researcher designed to give the researcher an orientation to the use of the materials, to help the researcher identify relevant holdings, and to ensure that research needs are met.
reformat To create a copy with a format or structure different from the original, especially for preservation or access.
repository an institution focused on the care and storage of items of continuing value, particularly records
research value the usefulness or significance of materials based on their content, independent of any intrinsic or evidential value
researcher An individual who uses the collections and services of a repository; a customer; a patron; a reader
respect des fonds the principle maintaining records according to their origin and in the units in which they were originally accumulated
retention period The length of time records should be kept in a certain location or form for administrative, legal, fiscal, historical, or other purposes.
retention schedule A document that identifies and describes an organization's records, usually at the series level, provides instructions for the disposition of records throughout their life cycle.
sampling selecting, as part of appraisal, a portion of a body of records for permanent retention
scope and contents note A narrative statement summarizing the characteristics of the described materials, the functions and activities that produced them, and the types of information contained therein.
scrapbook A blank book, often with a simple string binding, used to store a variety of memorabilia, such as clippings, pictures, and photographs.
secondary value the usefulness or significance of records based on purposes other than that for which they were originally created
secondary source A work that is not based on direct observation of or evidence directly associated with the subject, but instead relies on sources of information.
selection The process of identifying materials to be preserved because of their enduring value, especially those materials to be physically transferred to an archives
series A group of similar records that are arranged according to a filing system and that are related as the result of being created, received, or used in the same activity; a file group; a record series.
silver gelatin photograph A photographic print, negative, or transparency with an image formed from metallic silver in a gelatin emulsion on a base of paper, plastic film, glass, or other material.
slide A positive photographic image on transparent film that has been mounted to facilitate projection.
software The instructions that direct the operation of computer hardware.
stability The quality of resisting change or deterioration.
stereograph Two photographs mounted together which, when viewed together, give the illusion of three dimensions.
subject classification The organization of materials into categories according to a scheme that identifies, distinguishes, and relates the concepts or topics of the materials.
subseries A body of documents within a series readily distinguished from the whole by filing arrangement, type, form, or content.
textual records A general classification of records with content that is principally written words.
total archives A strategy to document the historical development and all segments of a community by acquiring both official administrative records as well as related personal papers and corporate records.
transcript A written record that is a verbatim account of something spoken.
transitory record A record that has little or no documentary or evidential value and that need not be set aside for future use.
typescript A document produced using a typewriter.
use copy A reproduction of a document created for use by patrons, protecting the original from wear or theft; an access copy
user An individual who uses the collections and services of a repository; a patron; a reader; a researcher; a searcher.
value the usefulness, significance, or worth that determines a record’s retention
vellum unsplit calfskin treated with alum and polished
visual materials A generic term used to collectively describe items of a pictorial nature, including prints, paintings, photographs, motion pictures, and video.
vital statistics Public records required by law that document significant life events, such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and public health events, and that are kept by city, county, state, or other governmental body.
watermark A design in paper, formed by a difference in amount of fiber, that is visible when viewed by transmitted light.
weeding The process of identifying and removing unwanted materials from a larger body of materials.
working files Documents, such as notes, drafts, and calculations, created and acquired in the process of assembling another document.
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