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Evaluarea Documentelor Elecronice Germania

Evaluarea Documentelor Elecronice Germania

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Published by: RA on Jun 14, 2012
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01/13/2015

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74
APPRAISAL AND DISPOSAL OF ELECTRONIC RECORDS ANDTHE PRINCIPLE OF PROVENANCE: APPRAISAL FOR ACCESS- NOT FOR OBLIVION
Angelika Menne-Haritz
 Director of the Archive School Marburg, Germany
I would first like to thank the organizers of the meeting for asking me to speak about appraisaland provenance in electronic environments, since when I tried to find out, what the meaningof provenance for electronic records might be, I was increasingly under the impression of holding a key in my hand to several of the problems with electronic records.
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That is why Iadded a subtitle to the paper indicating what my main theses shall be. I would like to show,that provenance based appraisal of electronic records is the secret serious wish of archivists tokeep the complete whole, knowing very well that it is not possible physically.
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But the reasonsfor it are not space or money. The paradox is that only the destruction of parts of the recordsopens access to the complete information potential of the original situation.
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The physicalwhole of the records, be it on paper or in electronic form causes it to be inaccessible for research. The forest cannot be seen because there are so many trees. Appraisal builds the pathsthrough the mass and constructs goals for investigations. So it makes accessible the originalinformation potential through the destruction of parts of its physical appearance.
The Importance of Ephemeral Notes
The Principle of Provenance is the distinct characterizing element that allows a differentiation between records and information. This distinction is especially interesting considering the newelectronic records and electronic data collections. There is no physical form left that couldindicate the sort of writing. Is it just text, that serves as a message to a specific person? Shouldit be kept secret or is it supposed to be published? And more than that lack of capacity tocontrol further use or alteration, other forms of writing are suddenly realized to be vanishing.Such forms did not necessarily have the character of independent texts, but of annotations or marks, even using other symbols than the letters of the alphabet such as crosses, lines, andhooks. These are hard to be reproduced in electronic form. But when losing this possibility tonote something and attach it inseparably to another report, a certain loss is felt.The paper world cannot be transferred on a one to one basis into the electronic world, insteadit is dramatically transformed, when analog or digital forms of writing can be chosen. Paper  based communication offers many more possibilities than just writing down texts. Electronicwriting cannot offer the same forms of writing, but it offers other and different functionalities,which now allow new ways of communication. These experiences indicate that newdifferentiations of working, communication methods, and functionalities are occurring. Newtools and instruments are possible and just need to be shaped for specific demands.Considering the differences between the two forms of writing separated by the functionalitiesof electronic media, there is an obvious sensation of losing something which is very useful for 
 
75the moment, but may be considered ephemeral afterwards. Everything recorded or sent tosomeone in electronic form has to have the form of text (or graphics) constructed by using predefined letters or signs. And it cannot be attached to another message, if it is not integratedinto its text or combined by some software tools, that may not be available for someone elsewho has to read it. So electronic writing can offer the function of written text. But is has greatdifficulties in capturing the intention of doing something with this text, be it to change itswording, be it another operation with the text or even simply the intention of some actionwithout any text. On paper notes can be laid down, that organize coming activities. They arenot meant for eternity. They are ephemera, just like a shopping list, that can be thrown awayafter all the items are bought. These notes put down on a page or just a piece of paper, cannot be reproduced in electronic form. And that is the situation when we realize, that ephemera isimportant.
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Here is the link between electronic records and the principle of provenance.Because the principle of provenance has meaning when the use of records is considered as part of activities, not just of producing texts or information.
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The Principle of Provenance
The Principle of Provenance first developed as a research principle in the 19th century, whenhistorians started to ask: Why? Not only: What? They discovered developments and structuresand looked for the facts in their contexts of premises and consequences. It was used as astructuring principle for the archival organization, when the whole archival system and itsinstitutions were arranged according to the original order and each archival institution wasdefined by its area of responsibility, from where it got the papers that are no longer used for  business purposes. So the municipal archives care for municipal archives, the nationalarchives for the records of the central government and the records of a firm are kept by itsown archives. With this structure researchers know where records that emerged from certainactivities can be found.It was adopted into archival science as the principle of original order at a time, when theoriginal order was the best means to show the contexts and the reasons behind development. Itwas formulated in this sense by the famous Dutch manual and soon after enlarged, showingthat the reestablishment of the original order is also a means to an end, which is to show theinterrelating inherent structures of the archival material. Adolf Brenneke explained, that theoriginal order may perhaps not be the best medium to demonstrate, how a fonds grew duringthe course of business. But that is what archives are expected to offer: Insight into the processes and structures, which bring records into being.The meaning of the principle of provenance was enlarged by the increasingly complexstructures of the paper work in modern administrations. Its usefulness was questioned in the70s and alternatives for description and arrangement were discussed using indexes or thesauruses. But it proved to be extremely valuable in building up the arrangement scheme of fonds according to the activities carried out with their help. Meanwhile it is accepted as afundamental principle, not only for the arrangement, but for other archival processing as awhole. It shows new capacities as an analytical tool, that helps in the understanding of thestructures of papers, documents and their composition to record groups.With the more complex structures of organizations, their differentiated use of records and thevarious forms of records and files that emerge out of their communication, archival processing
 
76techniques have put more emphasis on analysing. There is a growing need to understand, what produced the records, before they can be described and arranged. The analytical approach, theneed to understand, is different from the need to act. It places the observer outside the scenariohe is looking at and frees him from the need to achieve the internal goals. The observer stepsaside and can see the goals as chosen and distinct from other possible goals. Thisdifferentiation gives him the possibility of seeing reasons that are not accessible to the partiesinvolved in the actions. This position as an observer creates a neutral view on recordsmanagement, and it delivers a lot of knowledge useful for the formulation of advice for better  performance and improvement. The analytical approach, guided by the principle of  provenance allows the giving of advice simply because it separates the archivists from therecords managers and creates a possibility to better understand what is happening. From this position archivists can see the administration as a whole. They can analyse the work of therecords management and its effects on decision making as well as the structures and contentsof the decisions themselves. And they can offer this insight to the public using the specifictools of their profession.It is the principle of provenance that marks the position of the neutral observer towardsadministrations together with its records management. Such an observer can well distinguish between the purposes of records creations and those guiding their transfer to the archives andtheir presentation for public insight. This differentiation was reflected in the definition, thatAdolf Brenneke gave of the principle of provenance. For him it was in an abstract way the“community of purpose on the basis of common origin.”
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The decision making processcoherently reflects the reasons for the creation of records and it is reflected in their structureand their meaning. This definition formulated the intentions of the first definitions, which stillapply to the physical or organizational forms. It goes beyond this and explains their underlyingsense. This abstract formulation is the form by which the principle of provenance can guideappraisal decisions and explains how to handle electronic records, which do not have any physical shape. The core of it is the analysis and understanding of the decision making processes
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and their need for communication tools, for writing and recording.
Provenance and Appraisal
Decision making processes use time to come to an end by constructing interrelated sequencesof activities. Starting with the explication of the problem to solve they can build up plans, thatstructure the problem and prepare the integration of parts of the final solution into a specificdevelopment, which brings together special knowledge and merges it into something which ismore than just the sum of their total parts. If such a process takes place in a conference settingwhere people see and hear each other, the difference between intention and realization of further steps, of planning and realizing is not merely visible. If it brings together efforts of  people in different places, working on the problem at different times, it needs recording. Inthis constellation written organizational notes are useful to highlight certain intentions for further action as well as the fact that they were already done. Writing builds bridges over timeand localities, over the gap between the utterance of activity needs and the indicators, showingthat they have been settled. It constructs the collaborative structures as they are needed at thatmoment. For this effect the process needs a stabilized character on both sides, the intention aswell as the events, the aims as well as their results. The ephemeral note, as in the shoppinglist, needs to be stable and well preserved until the action is done and the provisions are brought together. It changes its functions while it is physically the same writing on the same

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