Accessing archival terminology and abbreviations
Archivists use specialist terms in the course of their work. This glossary consists of definitions drawn from the International Council on Archives Multilingual Archival Terminology Database and Irish Guidelines for Archival Description (Society of Archivists, Ireland 2009). For the purposes of this document, definitions were selected which reflected the understanding of archival terms in the Irish context.
The ability to make use of material from a fonds or collection, subject to rules and conditions.
Records sent to the National Archives to ensure their permanent preservation and access.
Record(s) added to an existing collection.
A second or subsequent accession to an existing collection. For example, each year the National Archives accepts accruals from the Department of the Taoiseach as this department continues to create records in the course of its work.
The degree to which data, information, documents or records are precise, correct, truthful, free of error or distortion, or pertinent to the matter.
Materials received by a repository as a unit; an accession.
The process of identifying and acquiring, by donation or purchase, historical materials from outside sources, including government departments, agencies and the courts as well as private donations.
The structure, functions and procedures of the organisational environment in which records were created.
The usefulness of records or archives for the conduct of current and/or future administrative business.
An arm of the State such as a government department or court office that creates records. Each agency from which records are accessioned is given a specific prefix and identifying code. See Department of State.
A note added or attached to an original record.
A record of enduring or legal value that provides evidence of the activities of a person or institution.
An agency or institution responsible for the preservation and access to records of enduring value that warrant permanent preservation as archives.
The process of analysing, organising, and recording details about the formal elements of a record or collection of records, such as creator, title, dates, extent, and contents, to facilitate the work’s identification, management, and understanding.
A place of deposit for archival records.
An individual responsible for appraising, acquiring, arranging, describing, preserving, and providing access to records of enduring value, according to the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control to protect the materials’ authenticity and context.
The quality of a record that is what it purports to be and that is free from tampering or corruption.
A reproduction that has been officially certified, especially so that it may be admitted as evidence. See Certified copy.
A record that is what it purports to be and that is free from tampering or corruption.
Part of a catalogue record or finding aid that places the materials in context by providing basic information about the materials’ creator or author.
An original record created in digital format. A paper record scanned to an electronic system is not born digitally. See Retrospective scanning.
An official copy of a document(s) with an accompanying letter and seal of authentication issued by the National Archives for records required for legal purposes.
The date (and, possibly, the time of day) of a record, included in the record by its author, or by the electronic system on the author’s behalf, in the course of its compilation.
Systematic identification and arrangement of business activities and/or records into categories according to logically structured conventions, methods and procedural rules represented in a classification system to aid business use, continued access and appropriate retention and disposal.
A plan for the systematic identification and arrangement of business activities and records into categories according to logically structured conventions, methods and procedural rules.
A system in which related material is filed under a major subject and its subheadings.
A file containing records generated by a process that has been completed and to which additional information is not likely to be added; a cut-off file.
A file that is restricted and which is not on open access to researchers in the reading room.
An artificial assemblage of documents accumulated on the basis of some common characteristic without regard to the provenance of those documents. Not to be confused with an archival fonds.
The repair or stabilisation of archives to ensure that they survive in their original form as long as possible.
The profession devoted to the preservation of cultural property for the future through examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care, supported by research and education.
The framework in which a record is created, used, and maintained.
A duplication, in whole or in part, of an original document. See Plain copy.
A property right that protects the interests of authors or other creators of works in tangible media (or the individual or organisation to whom copyright has been assigned) by giving them the ability to control the reproduction, publication, adaptation, exhibition, or performance of their works.
The dates of the oldest and most recent items in a collection, series, or file.
The Department of State, agency, corporate body or individual that is responsible for the creation, accumulation or maintenance of records.
The responsibility for the care of documents based on their physical possession. Custody does not always include legal ownership or the right to control access to records.
Facts, ideas, or discrete pieces of information, especially when in the form originally collected and unanalysed.
A structured assembly of logically related data designed to meet various applications but managed independently of them.
The fact that data are not modified either intentionally or accidentally without proper authorisation.
A Departmental record is defined in section 2(2) of the National Archives Act, 1986 and includes books, maps, plans, drawings, papers, files, photographs, films, microfilms and other micrographic records, sound recordings, pictorial records, magnetic tapes, magnetic discs, optical or video discs, other machine-readable records, other documentary or processed material made or received, and held in the course of its business, by a Department of State.
Department of State
A Department of State is defined in section 1(2) of the National Archives Act, 1986 as all government departments, all court offices, bodies listed in the schedule to the Act and any ‘body which is a committee, commission or tribunal of enquiry appointed from time to time by the Government, a member of the Government or the Attorney General’.
To place of documents in the custody of an archives without transfer of legal title.
See Archival description.
A record in electronic form. See Born digital.
The discipline which studies the genesis, forms and transmission of archival documents, and their relationship with the facts represented in them and with their creator, in order to identify, evaluate, and communicate their true nature.
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.
Recorded information regardless of medium or characteristics.
Materials, usually printed documents, created for a specific, limited purpose, and generally designed to be discarded after use.
An organised unit of documents grouped together either for current use by the creator or in the process of archival arrangement, because they relate to the same subject, activity, or transaction. A file is usually the basic unit within a record series. A file can be physical or electronic. For example, a personnel file or a grant application containing an application form and supporting documentation.
A description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the records and that assists users to gain access to and understand the records.
The entire body of records of an organisation, family, or individual that have been created and accumulated as the result of an organic process reflecting the functions of the creator.
A broad description of the holdings at one or more archives, typically at the collection level.
A method of presenting digital information that allows related files and elements of data to be interlinked, rather than viewed in linear sequence; usually differentiated from the normal text in a document by a different colour, by underlining, or by both.
The process of copying documents by reproducing their appearance through photography, micrographics or scanning.
The usefulness or significance of records based on their content, independent of any intrinsic or evidential value.
The control established over archival material by documenting in finding aids its provenance, arrangement, composition, scope, informational content and internal and external relationships.
Intellectual property rights
An idea, secret, mark or expression that has property rights created through intellectual and/or discovery efforts of a creator and that are generally protectable under patent, trademark, copyright or other law.
The smallest intellectually indivisible archival unit, e.g. a letter, memorandum, report, photograph, sound recording.
Item level description
The smallest intellectually indivisible archival unit (e.g., a letter, memorandum, report, or photograph). Items accumulate to form classes or series.
The ability of different systems to use and exchange information through a shared format. Standards facilitate interoperability.
The responsibility for the care of documents based on their physical possession. Custody does not always include legal ownership, or the right to control access to records.
Usefulness of a record in complying with statutes and regulations, as evidence in legal proceedings, as legal proof of business transactions or to protect an individual’s or a Department of State’s rights and interests.
Level of arrangement
The hierarchical, intellectual, and physical divisions used in archives management, including repository, record group, fonds, collection, subgroups, series, subseries, file, and item.
Level of description
The position of the unit of description in the hierarchy of the fonds.
A handwritten or typed document. A typed document is more precisely called a typescript; documents of manuscript character usually having historical or literary value or significance.
The physical material, container, and/or carrier in or on which information is recorded (e.g. parchment, paper, magnetic tape).
A flexible transparent sheet of film bearing a number of micro images arranged in horizontal rows and vertical columns with a header.
The use of photographic processes to produce very small images of original material on a film base. Preservation microfilming is undertaken to minimise handling and use of fragile records and enhance their preservation and accessibility.
A file to which documents continue to be added.
A file on open access to researchers in the reading room.
The first complete and effective version of a record that is designated as the official record.
A general term used to designate more than one type of manuscript material.
A collection of personal or family documents; personal papers.
The administrative, fiscal, legal, intrinsic, evidential and/or informational values, which justify the indefinite or permanent preservation of records as archives.
Documents created, acquired or received by an individual in the course of his or her affairs and preserved in their original order (if such order exists).
A duplicate of an original document used for information purposes only. A plain copy may have no legal standing. See Certified copy.
Processes and operations that minimise chemical and physical deterioration over time and prevent loss of information. This includes storing, protecting and maintaining records in an optimum manner and may include reformatting if required. See Conservation.
Microfilm made using materials and techniques to ensure continued access to materials that are in poor condition or to protect the originals from repeated handling.
Presumption of authenticity
An inference as to the fact of a record’s authenticity that is drawn from known facts about the manner in which that record has been created and maintained.
The worth that records/archives possess, by virtue of their contents, for the continued transaction of the business that gave rise to their creation.
Records or archives of non-governmental provenance deposited in, or purchased by, the National Archives.
In reference to hardware technology, software applications and/or file formats, the state of being privately owned and controlled.
Information regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of record(s).
See Departmental record.
Public Record Office of Ireland
An institution established under the Public Record Office (Ireland) Act, 1867 for the permanent preservation of public records and to facilitate their access to researchers. The Public Record Office of Ireland was amalgamated with the State Paper Office to form the National Archives, under the terms of the National Archives Act, 1986.
See Departmental record.
Record of state
See Departmental record.
A number or code assigned to uniquely identify a record or fonds.
A copy of a record kept for easy access to the information it contains, as opposed to its intrinsic or evidential value.
A document, usually a volume, in which regular entry is made of data of any kind by statutory authority or because the data are considered of sufficient importance to be exactly and formally recorded.
The process of formally recording information in a register.
A division within an organisation responsible for the recording, control and maintenance of records.
The policies and procedures that govern the recording, control and maintenance of records within an organisation through the use of formal registers, lists and indexes.
From 1189 official documents in England and Wales were dated using the regnal year. Each regnal year begins on the anniversary of the day the sovereign succeeded to the throne (e.g. 1509 was the year Henry VII acceded to the throne of England and may be cited as ‘1 Hen. 8’).
The process of generating a copy.
The digitisation of records originally in paper format and ingestion into an electronic document management system.
The disposal of original paper records, including those scanned retrospectively, without the authorisation of the Director of the National Archives is a breach of section 7 of the National Archives Act, 1986.
A die/matrix, usually of metal, engraved in intaglio with the device or design used to produce a seal by the application of pressure. Dies may be of one-sided design only or in pairs producing dissimilar designs simultaneously in each seal.
A piece of wax, lead, or other material upon which an impression in relief from a seal has been made, attached to a document, or applied to the face thereof, originally serving as a means of authentication; also used to close a document.
Documents arranged in accordance with a filing system or maintained as a unit because they result from the same accumulation or filing process, or the same activity; have a particular form; or because of some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt or use. A series is also known as a records series.
A name, initials or other distinctive mark made by an individual.
State Paper Office
An institution established in 1702 for the permanent preservation of the records of the British administration in Ireland. The State Paper Office was amalgamated with the Public Record Office of Ireland to form the National Archives, under the terms of the National Archives Act, 1986.
Thirty year rule (30 year rule)
The period of time before Departmental records can be transferred to the National Archives and released to the public.
A word or phrase that identifies a unit of description.
A collection of pages bound together.