Electronic Records Research 1997: Resource Materials

Compilation Copyright, Archives & Museum Informatics 1998
Article Copyright, Author

TEMPLATE 1

WHAT IS A RECORD IN THE TRADITIONAL ENVIRONMENT?


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I. DIPLOMATICS


Record = archival document

Archival document = a document produced in the course of practical activity

Document = written evidence of juridical facts

Evidence = testimony of facts = conveyed observation of events

Written evidence = evidence produced on a medium by means of a writing instrument or of an apparatus for fixing data, images, or voices

Facts = human conduct or natural events

Juridical facts = facts whose occurrence is taken into consideration by the juridical system. Facts include acts.

Juridical system = a social group organized on the basis of a system of rules

System of rules = all the rules that are perceived as binding at any time and place by a given social group

Produced = made or received

Activity = a collection or sequence of acts aimed to one purpose

Practical activity = an activity whose purpose is not the activity itself but the production of effects capable of influencing situations

Therefore, a record is testimony, produced on a medium in the course of practical activity, of facts taken into consideration by the rules recognized as binding by a social group.

On the basis of this definition the necessary components of a record are:

  1. medium = the material support of the recordís content, that is, of the testimony of facts

  2. content = the facts the record speaks of

  3. form = the way in which content is manifested = all the characteristics of a record determined by the application of the rules of representation of content typical of a given environment.

    Form breaks down into:

    a. physical form = the characteristics of the external appearance of the record, such as format, colors, etc. These characteristics are also called "extrinsic elements.
    b. intellectual form = the characteristics of the internal composition of the record. Intellectual form can be distinguished into:

    i. content configuration = the mode of expression of the content: text, graphics, images, or a combination
    ii. content articulation = the elements of the writing and their arrangement, that is, what determines the distinction between a letter and a memo or a chart and a map.
    iii. annotations = additions to the content of the record made after its compilation

  4. persons = entities which the juridical system recognizes as having the capacity to act, that is, to generate consequencences on the basis of the will. Persons can be either physical or juridical. Juridical persons are collections or successions of physical persons (also called moral persons or artificial persons). The existence of every record needs the concurrence of three persons:

    a. author = the person competent for the creation of the record, which is issued by it or its command or in its name. The author of a record may coincide with the author of the action of which the record is the outcome, or may not.
    b. addressee = the person to whom the record is directed. The addressee of a record may coincide with the addressee of the action, or may not. The addressee is not necessarily the person to whom a record is delivered or transmitted.
    c. writer = the person responsible for the intellectual form of the record. A modern term that expresses the same concept is originator. The writer cannot be a secretary or a clerk or a scribe.

    There are other persons who can be involved in the creation of a record, but are not necessary to its existence. They are:

    d. countersigner = the person who validates the form of the record, its procedure of creation, or its content. For example, the city-clerk signing a by-law.
    e. witness = the person signing the record for the purpose of either conferring solemnity to it; authenticating the signature of the author, the content of the record, or its compilation; or stating that an act for which both oral and written form are required, such as an oath, took place in its presence.

  5. acts = acts are movements of the will aimed to create, maintain, modify or extinguish situations. A special type of act is a transaction = an act capable of changing the relationships between two or more persons
Therefore, the necessary components of a record are medium, content, form, persons, acts. Intent of the author to transmit and capability to be transmitted are implied by the necessary existence of an addressee. Because of the necessary intent to transmit (over time or through space) and capability of the record to be transmitted, readability to and intelligibility by the addressee at the moment of the creation of the record (see created in the "archival science" section below) are also implied.

The minimum necessary requirements for a record to exist are:

a. medium
b. content
c. form
d. perons
e. acts
Implied requirements are:
f. intent to be transmitted
g. capability to be transmitted
h. readability at the creation stage by the intended addressee
i. intelligibility at the creation stage by the intended addressee

Question

are actual transmission and communication necessary components?
(tentative answer: not for a record to be "made," that is, to exist with the author; yes for a record to be "received," that is, to come into existence with the addressee--see created)


II. ARCHIVAL SCIENCE


Archival science does not define "a record", but "records," because it only deals with aggregations.

Records = archival documents

Archival documents = documents created by a physical or juridical person for the achievement of its purposes or in the exercise of its functions

Document = recorded information

Information = intelligence given = understanding conveyed

Recorded = affixed to a medium in a stable form

Created = made or received. A record is made when its compilation in its intended form is concluded and the record is set aside for transmission (over time or over space), reference and use, or subsequent action. A record is received when it reaches the intended addressee and is set aside for transmission, reference and use, or subsequent action. Initial preservation is necessary to the arising of documentary relationships.

Function = the whole of the activities aimed to one purpose. When such activities, or part of them, are assigned to a person, they constitute a competence

Therefore, records are documents made or received by a physical or juridical person as means and residue of its activity.

On the basis of this definition, we can add two other necessary components to those identified by diplomatics:

1. creator = the physical or juridical person who makes or receives the records in the course of its activity

2. archival bond = the relationships that, because of the circumstances of their creation, records have with their creator, with the activity in which they participate, and among themselves. The archival bond is originary (it comes into existence when the record is made or received), necessary (it exists for every record), and determined (it is characterised by the purpose of the record).
Therefore, archival documents or records are necessarily composed of documents and the complex of their relationships. Because of this, any document, of any nature, which acquires relationships with a group of archival documents or records, is to be considered a record itself, following the fundamental rule which governs every collectivity, according to which each individual entity acquires the nature and characteristics of the whole to which it belongs.

Is order a necessary component? The existence of an intellectual order is implied by the archival bond, thus order is a necessary consequence of the existence of the bond.


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