You are on page 1of 35

Principles of Records and Archives


the end of this section students should be able to:

Define records and archives/ archives administration Describe the role of archivist and records manager in an organization Critically discuss the various principles of archives and records care

Records and Archives


and organizations create and use records in the course of business These records provide Evidence of activities and interrelationship Information about associated people, organizations, events and places Some records of social and organizational activity are preserved because they are of continuing value to individuals, organizations or society. Records of continuing value are called archives.


has been applied to the products of current and ongoing activities, where as Archives has been defined as referring to any records with long term continuing value that have been kept either because they may be necessary for ongoing organizational purposes to their creating body or because they have additional research value.


provide a reliable and authentic knowledge base, enabling the past to be reconstructed and understood. Without archives, the past would remain largely unknown. By documenting the significant decisions, transactions and events of political, social and economic life, archives serve as the essential link in the chain of human history.


are preserved and managed by specialist archival institutions where they are safeguarded and made available for use. Archival Institution: the agency responsible for selecting, acquiring, preserving, and making available archives. Also known as an archival agency or archives. Note: The term archives is used to refer to an institution only in formal titles such as records and archives institution or National Archives.


Administration - ensures the provision of research information (non current records/archives) to the general public through acquisition, preservation, control and conservation of archives for posterity.


are preserved because of their continuing value to an individual or organization as well as society;
as long-term memory, enabling better quality planning, decision making and action by providing for continuity, access to past experience, expertise and knowledge and a historical perspective. as a way of accessing the experience of others as evidence of continuing rights and obligations as a source of our understanding and identification of ourselves, our organizations and our society as vehicles for communicating political, social and cultural values.

Both records managers and archivists are involved in managing the records of the organization. They are concerned with

The proper appraisal, arrangement and access and retrieval of information The protection of their holdings with appropriate equipment and environmentally sound storage areas. Security issues, with business continuity planning in case of disaster and with the use of technology to support their function


the chief mission of the archivist is:

Identifying and preserving the small percentage of records of enduring value found amid the mass of records generated in the course of daily affairs. To fulfill this role, archivists must be directly involved in the management of records throughout their life, as part of a continuum of care. Archivists must be involved in the design and implementation of records management systems to ensure that cultural as well as business functions are satisfied.


care of records and archives is governed by four key concepts.

Life cycle Continuum Provenance Original order

The life cycle is indicates that records are not static, but have life similar to biological organisms; they are born, live through youth and old age and then die. The idea was developed in North America by Schellenberg (1956), who wrote about the life span of records, which included their current use and final destiny. Since the 1950s many variants on the records lifecycle concept have been modelled.


models aim to show a progression of action taken at different times in the life of a record: typically, its creation, capture, storage, use and disposal The life cycle model is useful because it enables us to track, in a sequential process, the progress of a record and to ensure that the right processes are undertaken at each phase of its life

records are regularly used in the conduct of current business and are maintained in their place of origin or in the file tore of an associated records office. Semi-current - records are still used, but only infrequently, in the conduct of current business and maintained in a records centre. Non-current records are no longer used for the conduct of current business and are therefore destroyed unless they have a continuing value for other purposes, which for example merit their preservation as archives in an archival institution.


recent years the lifecycle concept has been subject to much adverse criticism. First, the life cycle represents a clear division between records and archives. In practice, records managers have traditionally been responsible for managing the current and semicurrent records and archivists have taken the responsibility at the archival stage.


division between the two aspects can lead to disjointed practice:

the records manager describes (file plans, classification scheme) the current/semi-current records for one set of processes; the archivist then re-describes then when they are transferred to the archives for a different set.


critics noted that some records do not die, but are retained indefinitely because of their continuing value. Thus, the division between stages of the lifecycle in the three ages model is seen as artificial: for example, records which have been thought to be noncurrent may have a renewed period of currency if the activity which gave birth to them is revived.


the lifecycle models also suggest they are too focused on records as physical entities and on operational tasks, especially those associated with the custody of paper records. Advances in technology suggested that the management of records in the traditional environment is no longer suitable for records in electronic formats, which have their own distinct characteristics.


technology changes, the records are prone to transformation and conversion Issues such as technological obsolescence, the need to migrate data to new platforms, and safeguarding of the authenticity of records, all have to be dealt with at the outset.

In the paper environment, records have their birth and definite death. But electronic records are subject to hardware and software control. The content of the information is only readable by the use of electronic devices, and the medium that holds the information is likely to change as systems mature. Any incompatibility over time either in the software structure or the hardware system will result in records that are no longer readable.

Records continuum

continuum model was developed in the 1980s and 1990s in response to criticisms of the life cycle model. Refers to a consistent and coherent regime of management processes from the time of creation of records (and before creation, in the design of record keeping systems) through to the preservation and use of records as archives.


a continuum model, there are no separate steps. The records continuum model deemphasizes the time-bound stages of the life cycle model The continuum combines the recordkeeping and archiving processes into integrated time-space dimensions Managing records is seen as a continuous process where one element of the continuum passes seamlessly into another.

The model emphasizes the overlapping characteristics of recordkeeping, evidence, transaction and the identity of the creator. According to Upward (2000) the four major themes:

Transactionalilty relates to records as products of activities; Authority (identity) relates to the authorities by which records are made and kept, including their authorship, establishing particularities of the actors involved in the acts of records creation, the empowerment of the actors and their identity viewed from broader social and cultural perspectives; Evidentiality relates to the records as evidence; and Recordkeeping containers relates to the objects created in order to store records.

The themes are linked by concentric circles representing the dimensions or layers of the continuum joining the individual record to its contexts. The dimensions include:
Create (document accountable acts) - where documents are drawn up or received in the post; Capture - where documents are added to the office filing system that is records series; Organize - where the series has been scheduled for permanent preservation forming part of the organizational memory; and Pluralize (ensure societal memory) - where documents as records schedules for permanent preservation constituting evidence of their creators or accumulators activity, are consulted by internal and external users.

In contrast with the older view that records are kept for organizational purposes during early stages of their lives, and only later come to meet the needs of a wider society as archives, The continuum model embraces the view that records function simultaneously as organizational and collective memory from the time of their creation.

The create-capture-organize-pluralize rhythm immediately sets up a systematized approach to recordkeeping and archiving tasks (e.g. appraisal starts to include what documents to create, what data and documents to capture as records, what needs to be done to organize an archive for corporate and through life retrieval, what needs to be part of the plural environment now and through time i.e. an archives is built out of the plurality of documents in the individual or corporate archive.

Early archivists established two interconnected principles which continue to guide the management of archives today. i.e. Provenance and Original order. Originally a French term, respect des fonds is often defined simply as respect for the creator of the records. These principles guide the processes which document the records and their context, and the development of systems for their physical and intellectual control, including their arrangement and description, storage and preservation.

According to the principle of provenance the link between archives and creator should be maintained in order to preserve the quality and context of the evidence that is contained. Thus provenance relates to the preservation of the context of the records, that is their links to purpose, function and activity, to the individual or parts of an organization which created them, and to other records created by that individual or within that organization.

Records created within an organization usually comprise copies of documents made and dispatched, originals of documents received and both originals and copies of documents circulating within the organization. Adherence to the principle were achieved by keeping the body of records of continuing value of an organization or individual together physically following transfer to archival custody. Thus, the archives of one organization were not mixed or combined with that of another.


order means that records should be maintained in the order in which they were placed by the organization, individual or family that created them. i.e It involves keeping records in the order
in which they were accumulated as they were created, maintained or used, and not rearranging them according to some imposed subject, numerical, chronological or other order. Such rearrangement may compromise the integrity of the records and destroy or mask the evidence provided by their original arrangements.


restore and present to researchers, the original order of the records as evidence of how the records were used by their creator. A practical reason contributes to archivists respect for original order: it is the only way to gain control over large collections.

idea is that archivists restore this original order to present to the user an unaltered view of how the records were managed in the current use.

Keeping records in their original order facilitates access using their own indexes and registers. Provenance and Original order are the basic principles of arrangement and description.

Flynn, S. J. A. 2001. The records continuum model in context and its implications for archival practice. Journal of the Society of Archivists 22(1):79-93. McKemmish, S. 1997. Yesterday, today and tomorrow: a continuum of responsibility. Proceedings of the Records Management Association of Australia 14th National Convention. Records Management Association of Australia (RMAA) Perth. September15-17, 1997. < ons/recordscontinuum/smc kp2.html McKemmish, S. 2001. Placing records continuum theory and practice. Archival Science 1:333-359. Shepherd, E. 2010 'Archival Science', Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition, 1: 1, 179 191.

Upward, F. and McKemmish, S. 2006. Teaching recordkeeping and archiving continuum style. Archival Science 6:219230.