Contemporary Archival Description as Required Digital Competence of Today's Archivists

Contemporary Archival Description as Required Digital Competence of Today's Archivists

Arian Rajh
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2104-5.ch009
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This chapter examines the significance of knowing archival description standards, metadata models, and serializations for archivists who work in archival institutions and organizations of record creators. The author starts with international standards and one Croatian organization, which generates archival descriptions automatically by the archives management tool it uses. This software functionality was to become possible because the organization had professional knowledge of required standards. Also, the author explains university and professional education programs in Croatia, which build the digital competence of today's Croatian archivists. Moreover, the chapter outlines the global practice with archival description and production of finding aids in ways which are adequate today. Finally, the author uses the described case study, the analysis of finding aids practice in Croatia, the analysis of educational programs in Croatia, and the analysis of the global state of archival description to offer conclusions about the importance of this professional competence.
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International Standards And National Laws As Foundation For Descriptive Practice

Professionals who handle current and historical or archival information and records consult various standards in their everyday work. Standards related to the archival domain deal with processes such as the appraisal of material, their disposition, transfer and destruction, digitization, microfilming, and so forth. Besides that, they deal with the quality of material, packaging and storage conditions, and physical or digital repositories. Moreover, they cover the issue of management of records and collections. Also, there are risk management standards in this domain. In addition, there are ways to standardize particular properties of records, for instance, digital signature and their long-term preservation. In comparison, there are standards that seek to preserve records’ authenticity not by preserving their digital signatures but by other means such as blockchain technology. In this universe of standards, there are some standards that facilitate the description and visibility of information or records. These standards focus on metadata. Among all of these standards used in the archival domain, this chapter pays close attention to the next three types of standards. At first, there are descriptive standards used by both “traditional” and “digital” archivists (1). Then, there are standards for (meta)data models (2), and there are also serializations standards (3) that extend descriptive standards and require new (digital) competence.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Serialization: An expression of the structure of metadata which presents the structure and thus facilitates the transmission, use, and interpretation of metadata between various mostly software agents. Serializations used by archivists are XML, RDF, JSON, Turtle, and so forth.

Descriptive Standard: Standards used by archivists for describing archival materials and related archival entities. A descriptive standard defines which metadata should be used. Archival descriptive standards are ISAD(G), ISAAR(CPF), ISDF, ISDIAH, RiC.

Archivist: A professional who carries out archival processes of on archival materials in an environment that contains such materials.

Archives: 1) The accumulation of archival materials of a records creator for the preservation purpose. 2) A physical or virtual environment where archival materials are accumulated and preserved. 3) An institution with the mandate to preserve archival materials. 4) An organizational unit entrusted with the task to preserve organizational archival materials.

Metadata Model: A structure of metadata which facilitates transmission, use, and interpretation of metadata between various human and software agents. Metadata models used by archivists are METS, PREMIS, DC, and so forth. A metadata model defines the structure for metadata set defined by descriptive standard (in case of EAD) or introduces a new set of metadata (in the case of METS, DC, or PREMIS).

Archival Legislation: Legislation in the domain of the archival profession. Archival legislation in Croatia consists of the highest law on archives and bylaws which regulate particular issues of archival practice.

Finding Aid: A product of the archival description process that contains metadata about archival material in an arbitrary form or according to selected metadata model. Finding aids are produced to manage and interpret archival materials. Finding aids examples are guides, inventories, lists, and so forth.

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