Sunday, May 10, 2009

Annotated Bibliography of Archival Description Part 1 of 6

This post is part of an annotated bibliography about archival description. Please click below to read further:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

“Description…captures and communicates knowledge about the broad administrative and documentary contexts of records creation within an organization as a whole as one moves further away from the original circumstances of creation. Its purpose is to preserve, perpetuate, and authenticate meaning over time so that it is available and comprehensible to all users—present and potential” (MacNeil 1995, 22).

Principles of original order and provenance aim to achieve the objectives of archival arrangement and description, which preserve the context of the archives and safeguard their evidential value and historical authenticity. Most archivists agree that descriptions of collections are often inadequate to capture the complexity of the records. Both an expanded understanding of the provenance and function of records and an acknowledgment that archivists are co-creators of the records could greatly enhance current description practices.

The articles discuss the universal theoretical underpinnings of description, rather than specific descriptive standards. Representing current scholarship in the field, the articles were written in the 1990s and 2000s, with a majority published in the last few years. Articles, rather than monographs or websites, were chosen for their timeliness and their international perspective on description.

The following countries’ perspectives on description were represented by the selected journals: Australia (Archives and Manuscripts), Canada (Archivaria), the United Kingdom and Ireland (Journal of the Society of Archivists), and the United States (American Archivist, Collection Management, and Libraries & the Cultural Record). Archival Science and Journal of Archival Organization are considered international journals by their editorial boards.

Descriptive systems for institutional records, digital records, personal papers, diaries, and ephemera are discussed. The intended audience is archivists at all experience levels, as the articles discuss theoretical approaches that may influence current practices at archival institutions. Archivists informed with current research can create descriptive systems with expended contextual information to assist users to better understand and interpret records.

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