Archival Terminology

Active records: Active records are recent in date and may be in frequent use for several months after their creation and distribution. They are needed for conducting current business and so must be stored in a location accessible to the staff and/or volunteers. Most active records outline their usefulness in less than three years.

Acquisition: Materials physically and officially transferred to a repository.

Administrative records: Records required to carry on the work of an organization: administration, building and property, equipment and supplies, finance and personnel.

Analogue records: Material on eye-readable carrier media , (words on paper, photographs, maps, etc.), or records that require an electronic device to be read, (cassette tapes, VHS, Betamax, etc.).

Appraisal: The process of determining whether records and other materials have permanent (archival) value.

Arrangement: The process of identifying archival documents as they belong to groupings within a fonds.

Block numeric: Numeric system where blocks of numbers are assigned to sections a classification and retention plan.

Collection: Materials that are gathered together and organized based on theme or topic.

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.

Description: The recording of information, based on descriptive standards, about the nature, structure and content of the records.

Digital records: Material that is created using a computer and software. These records also need a computer and software to be read, (PDF, Word, png, etc.).

File: An organized unit of documents brought together because they related to the same subject, activity, or transaction.

File classification plan: A way of organizing and grouping files using numbers, letters or a combination of both. The plan is based on the concept of the records series.

Finding aids: Finding aids are documents that contain information about the material part of a fonds or collection and facilitate the retrieval of those records. Finding aids are used by researchers to determine if the records in the collection or fonds hold information that is significant to their research. They may take on many forms including a guide, inventory, shelf and container lists and registers.

Fonds: Records created and/or accumulated by an individual, family or organization.

Inactive records: The period when records are no longer being used

Item: An archival unit that can be distinguished from a group and that is complete in itself; a level of description.

Migration: The process of converting a data from an obsolete structure to a new structure to counter software obsolescence.

Normalization: The process of converting a digital object into a persistent file format.

Official records: Official records are those received and created by The United Church of Canada. These records belong to The United Church of Canada as a whole.

Operational records: Records generated by an organization in the course of performing its business or carrying out its functions.

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

Provenance: The source of the records. This may be an individual, family or organization that created and/or accumulated and used the records.

Records: Records include any documentary materials created or received by The United Church of Canada in the course of its everyday activities.

Records series: A record series consists of materials that are kept together because they:

  • Relate to a particular subject or function
  • Result from the same activity
  • Document a specific kind of transaction
  • Take a particular physical form (e.g. registers)
  • Have some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use

Reference: A service to aid patrons in locating materials relevant to their interests.

Series: Documents arranged systematically or maintained as a unit because they related to a particular function or subject, result from the same activity, have a particular form.

Transitory records: Transitory records are not required to meet legal, fiscal or operation needs. This type of record is only required for a limited time for the completion of routine tasks or for the preparation of the official record.

Vital records: Vital records contain information which is essential to the continued functioning for rebuilding of an organization during and after an emergency. They are also the records that are essential to protecting the rights and interests of the organization and of the individuals directly affected by its activities.

Definitions courtesy of the SAA Dictionary of Archival Terminology.