SPIRT Recordkeeping Metadata Project - Glossary

Full Title: SPIRT Recordkeeping Metadata Project
Dates: 1998 – 1999


ACPM, Australian Common Practices Manual: The Australian Society of Archivists commissioned Chris Hurley to collect and systematise information about how Australian archival institutions structure and use descriptive data. The outcome was the Australian Common Practices Manual. It is descriptive of Australian common practice within a conceptual framework which presents information about descriptive data in relation to four kinds of entities – ambience, provenance, records and contents entities. Ambient entities refer to organisations, families, and groupings of agencies by jurisdiction or competence; provenance entities to persons and corporate bodies which create, maintain, control or use records; records entities to record aggregates; and content entities to record items.

(Chris Hurley, “Data, Systems, Management, and Standardisation”, Archives and Manuscripts 22 (2) November 1994, pp. 338-59.)

Archives: See Records

BAC: The Business Acceptable Communications model envisions records as dynamic, self-managing metadata encapsulated objects. The metadata is specified in layers, namely the handle (or identification), structure, content, context, terms and conditions, and use layers. The context metadata is most relevant to the immediate transactional business context of the record, and does not provide for description of the broader contexts in which records are created and used.

(University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Sciences, “Metadata Specifications Derived from the Functional Requirements: A Reference Model for Business Acceptable Communications”, http://www.sis.pitt.edu/~nhprc/meta96.html)

Description in the Records Continuum: a complex multi-layered recordkeeping function that is carried out through a series of parallel and iterative processes that capture and manage recordkeeping metadata. Description-related processes begin at or before records creation and continue throughout the lifespan of the records. Their primary aim is to provide the intellectual controls that enable reliable, authentic, meaningful and accessible records to be carried forward through time within and beyond organisational boundaries for as long as they are needed for the multiple purposes they serve.

EAD: Encoded Archival Description was designed to provide a data structure standard for archival finding aids so that they could be made available via the Internet, thus providing ready access to detailed information about archival collections. It further provides for the embedding or linking of digitised images of archival materials.

(Encoded Archival Description Application Guidelines Version 1.0, prepared by the Encoded Archival Description Working Group of the Society of American Archivists, SAA, Chicago, 1999; EAD elements are also listed at http://lcweb.loc.gov/ead/)

ISAD (G): The General International Standard for Archival Description provides a standardised set of elements for describing records in archival custody (archives), its main objective being to facilitate access by researchers. It enables the description of archives at various levels of aggregation. Its companion standard, ISAAR (CPF), enables the descriptions of archives using ISAD(G) to be linked to standardised information about records creators.

(International Council of Archives, General International Standard for Archival Description, Ottawa, 1994, and the International Standard Archival Authority Record For Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families, Ottawa, 1996, are available via http://www.ica.org/cgi-bin/ica.pl?04_e)

Metadata: generically defined as “structured data about data”. Descriptive metadata is simply a new term for the type of information that has existed in records and archives systems throughout time. Traditional archival finding aids, index cards, file covers, file registers, the headers and footers on paper documents, and all of their computerised counterparts are rich in metadata that helps recordkeepers to identify, describe, authenticate, manage and provide access to records.

Metadata Schema: a semantic and structural definition of the metadata used to describe recordkeeping entities. A schema describes the names of metadata elements, how they are structured, their meaning etc. The metadata community also refers to a metadata schema as a metadata set or specification.

ORM: Object-Role Modelling is a method for designing database models. It is a conceptual modelling approach, that is, it specifies the model using concepts and language easily understood by non-technical users. It views the world in terms of objects, and the roles they play. Using the associated conceptual schema design procedure, these objects and roles are discovered and expressed using elementary natural language sentences. Object-Role Modelling is particularly suited to the task of modelling a metadata schema (that is, !metamodelling). Firstly, it is more expressive than many other data modelling techniques (such as Entity-Relationship modelling). This expressiveness allows a high level of detail to be included and hence more rigorous analysis. Secondly, an ORM diagram can be populated with data examples, allowing for validation by an expert using natural language and examples from the profession or domain being modelled.

(T. Halpin, Conceptual Schema & Relational Database Design, Second Edition. Prentice Hall Australia, 1995)

Recordkeeping: making and maintaining complete, accurate and reliable evidence of business transactions in the form of recorded information. It includes:

  • The creation of records in the course of business activity and the means to ensure the creation of adequate records.
  • The design, establishment and operation of recordkeeping systems.
  • The management of records used in business (traditionally regarded as the domain of records management) and as archives (traditionally regarded as the domain of archives administration).

(AS4390-1966. Australian Standard Records Management, Part 2: Responsibilities, pp. 5-6, 5.1.3)

Recordkeeping Metadata: standardised information that identifies, authenticates, describes, manages and makes accessible through time and space documents created in the context of social and business activity. Traditionally some of this metadata has been captured in records systems and some in archival control systems and finding aids. And some of it has been present in the physical form, ordering, juxtaposition and location of records. Increasingly recordkeeping metadata is also captured in workflow, document management and knowledge management systems, and it is essential to make what was before evident in the physicality of the record explicit in metadata.

Recordkeeping Processes: Recordkeeping processes:

  • ‘fix’ documents which are created in the context of social and organisational activity
  • ‘preserve’ them as evidence of that activity in ways that assure their accessibility for as long as they are of value to people, organisations and societies – whether that be for a nanosecond or millennia.

Records (1): recorded information, in any form, including data in computer systems, created or received and maintained by an organization or person in the transaction of business or the conduct of affairs and kept as evidence of such activity. Archives: those records that are appraised as having continuing value. (Note: the unifying concept of records which is inclusive of records of continuing value, i.e. archives.)

(AS4390-1966. Australian Standard Records Management, Part 1: General, pp.6-7)

Records (2): evidence of social and organisational activity that takes a documentary form. The records created in the course of doing business capture in documentary form the business done. A record has:

  • ‘Fixed’ content that accurately captures the business being done
  • A ‘fixed’ structure that can continue to be re-presented over time
  • Enough persistently linked information about its business context to be meaningful through time.

Increasingly in an electronic environment, a record’s content is captured and stored as data, and its structure and context is captured and stored as metadata.

(Note: This RKMS definition of Records extends that found in AS 4390)

Records Continuum : Records continuum approaches are based on establishing an integrated regime of management processes for the whole of the records existence. Records continuum thinking focuses on the unifying purposes shared by all recordkeeping professionals (records managers and archivists), defined as:

delivering frameworks for accountable recordkeeping regimes that enable access to essential, useable evidence of social and business activity for business, social and cultural purposes for as long as it is of value.

(Sue McKemmish, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A Continuum of Responsibility”, in Preserving Yesterday, Managing Today and Challenging Tomorrow: Proceedings 14th National Convention RMAA, 1997. Perth, Records Management Association of Australia, 1997, p.19)

In Australia, records continuum thinking and practice has defined a mission for recordkeeping professionals that brings together records managers and archivists under the recordkeeping umbrella.

Records Systems: Records systems constitute a special type of information system. This was first clearly articulated by David Bearman (in “Record-Keeping Systems”, Archivaria 36, Autumn 1993, pp.16-37). Information systems are normally designed to keep information that is

  • timely
  • non-redundant
  • manipulable.

To act as records systems, they need to contain information that is:

  • time-bound
  • redundant
  • non-manipulable.

Managing records as evidence of social and organisational activity involves incorporating them into records systems that can:

  • carry them forward with their ‘fixed’ content
  • re-present their structure or documentary form
  • maintain sufficient contextual links to preserve their meaning through time.

Records systems ensure that transactions (records contents) are always linked to the contextual and structural information (metadata) which makes them records, and that records can continue to be rendered (re-presented) over time.

RDF: The Resource Description Framework is a World Wide Web Consortium initiative to allow creation, exchange and use of metadata. RDF provides a framework in which independent communities can develop metadata vocabularies that suit their specific needs and share those vocabularies with other communities. RDF defines a language for describing these vocabularies that is influenced by ideas for knowledge representation from the artificial intelligence and database communities.

(W3C RDF Homepage: http://www.w3.org/RDF)

VERS: The Victorian Electronic Records Strategy project developed functional specifications for an electronic archival system that captures records and their descriptive metadata as PDF files. The descriptive metadata is also captured in an XML database for management and resource discovery purposes. The metadata set specified as part of the VERS project is essentially a scaled-down version of the Business Acceptable Communications Model metadata.

(Public Record Office of Victoria, Victorian Electronic Records Strategy Final Report, 1998, http://www.prov.vic.gov.au/vers/welcome.htm)

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