archival intelligence: using archival catalogues and finding aids

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Archives are arranged and described in accordance with a set of international and national standards. By understanding the theories and standards that underpin the way archives are described, users will be able to use archives catalogues more fully.


  • 1. Archival Intelligence: searching archivecatalogues and finding aids

2. Who are the Archivally Intelligent? Expert users of archives can do research successfully within the systems andprocedures of the archives. (National Archives UK blog, 2012) They understand archival concepts, such as provenance 2, and speak the language ofarchives, using words such as series 3 They can use catalogues, indexes and other finding aids 4 or search tools, both online and inpaper form, to search for records. They can make the mental connections between theirresearch topics, the finding aids and the records themselves They understand the referencing system and cite references properly They prepare thoroughly and carefully for research trips If the research path is difficult or complicated, they can persevere and keep going Following the reading room rules is second nature to them When they visit different archives, or use different archives websites, they can pick up andadjust to variations in how things are done Above all, archivally intelligent users can form a research strategy and carry itthrough 3. Archival Concepts Respect des fonds 19th century French concept fonds were the surviving archives of adepartment (fonds) and are kept and retained as one entity. Recordsof different departments were not mixed together (e.g. records fromdifferent creators with the name of one place arent put together, orlinked by subject think Dewey). Provenance The original creator of a record Chain of custody and use Records are kept and described so that this context is maintained andidentified Original Order The order in which records are created and used. Internal andexternal links between records are retained and maintained. May bemodified by custodians as the records are used, but no other order isimposed on them by the archives. 4. Archival DescriptionSpeak the languageFonds (UK, US, Canada, Europe)Records Group (US, early Australian practice)Series (Australia Item, file, piece or folder Accession and consignment Function and activitySee the American Society of Archivists glossary ( and the ICA glossary for more terms( ). 5. Archival Description Is hierarchical But also relational Basic description defined by InternationalStandards ISAD (G) ISAAR/CPF 6. Australian Series Registration systementitiesCCoonntteexxtt EEnnttiittiieessFunction EntitiesFunctionActivityAgency EntitiesOrganisationAgency/ PersonCCoonntteexxtt EEnnttiittiieessRecord EntitiesRecord Series [WAS]ItemDocument [SRO Piece]( ISAD/G)Function EntitiesFunctionActivity(ISDF)Agency EntitiesOrganisationAgency/ Person [WAA]ISAAR (CPF) 7. Using catalogues and Finding AidsThe acid testNAANational Archives UK 8. The State archives collection Archives: materials deemed to have long termcultural or historical value Archives created by WA Colonial, State and LocalGovernments since 1829 Mandatory transfer to SRO custody in accordancewith the State Records Act 2000. Prior to that,transfer was optional. 9. The State archives collection State Archives collection began 1945 Currently 15km in State Records Officecustody Currently 50km in Agency custody 10. Using catalogues and Finding AidsAEONNew SROWA catalogue (in development) 11. Using catalogues and Finding AidsMore terminology what is a Finding Aid?Descriptions of records that provide both users and archives staff with information about the records, providing physical andintellectual control over the records.AJCP handbook?BugtoolAN listings Chief Protector of Aborigines listingInformation sheetsEtcAncestry database?The registers, indexes and control records produced by the creator of the records.CSO registersDivorce registersDead names Index Probate index 12. Referencing material Referencing will depend on what you are doing University assignment Public report Journal article Book But each system has some fundamental rules Author/creator/responsible authority statement (ISAAR/CPF) Title Type of material Date range Where located (series, folder, item) Publisher, library or archive location information - WAS, cons,item (or vice versa), SROWA. 13. Reading Room Rules Clean dry hands Handle things carefully Use supports Pencils No sticky markers Let the staff know if you find a damaged item(not immediately apparent when they hand itover) No food or drink No bags 14. Now you are archivally intelligent But sometimes, you want some reassuranceor extra help 08 9427 3600