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Glossary of Terms about Archives

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Home > Student/Teacher Section > Glossary of Terms about Archives


Glossary of Terms You May Not Know


All terms come from the Society of American Archivists' Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology, © 2005 by the Society of American Archivists. All rights reserved. Used with permission.  


ANorthwestern University Archives

Archives: (also archive), n. ~ 1. Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value of the information they contain – 2. An organization that collects the records of individuals, families, or other organizations; a collecting archives. – 3. The professional discipline of administering such collections and organizations. – 4. The building (or portion thereof) housing archival collections. 


Archivist: n. ~ 1. An individual responsible for appraising, acquiring, arranging, describing, preserving, and providing access to records of enduring value. – 2. An individual with responsibility for management and oversight of an archival repository or of records of enduring value.



Collection: n. ~ 1. A group of materials with some unifying characteristic. – 2. Materials assembled by a person, organization, or repository from a variety of sources; an artificial collection. 


Correspondence: n. ~ Written communication, especially those sent by courier or post; letters.



Ephemera: pl. n. (ephemeron, sing.) ~ Materials, usually printed documents, created for a specific, limited purpose, and generally designed to be discarded after use.



Finding Aid: n. ~ 1. A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records. – 2. A description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials.



Manuscript repository: n. ~ An institution that collects historically valuable records of individuals, families, and organizations from sources other than the organization that operates the institution.



Primary source: n. ~ Material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness.



Reference: n. ~ A service to aid users ("patrons") in locating materials relevant to their interests.



Secondary source: n. ~ A work that is not based on direct observation of or evidence directly associated with the subject, but instead relies on sources of information.



Transcript: n. ~ A written record that is a verbatim account of something spoken.

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