Ref: UN/CS/RAI/USAA/DB01/2004-00104

United Nations Participating Organizations

DAP – Phase I

Development of a Strategic Plan

Digital Assessment Survey




Active records -  Those records required for the day-to-day functioning of an agency or person. Also referred to as current records.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 461


Activity-  Each function of an agency may be broken down into a number of 'activities', a term used in the sense of a class of actions that are taken in accomplishing a specific function. The activities in turn may be broken down into a number of transactions.  See Function.


Activity descriptor-  The level of descriptor that follows a keyword. The activity descriptor reflects the activity performed within the function that is represented by the keyword.


Appraisal-  The process of evaluating business activities to determine which records need to be captured and how long the records need to be kept, to meet business needs, the requirements of organisational accountability and community expectations.

The process of determining the retention period of records.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Archival authority-  An archival agency, an archival institution, and archival programme, an agency or programme responsible for selecting, acquiring and preserving archives, making them  available, and approving destruction of other records.


Archival description-  The creation of an accurate representation of a unit of description and its component parts, if any, by capturing, analyzing, organizing and recording information that serves to identify, manage locate and explain archival materials and the context and systems which produced it. The term also describes the products of the process.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Archives-  Those records that are appraised as having continuing value.

1.         Those records that are appraised as having continuing value. Traditionally the term has been used to describe records no longer required for current use which have been selected for permanent preservation. Also referred to as permanent records.

2.         The place (building/room/storage area) where archival material is kept.

3.         An organisation (or part of an organisation) responsible for appraising, acquiring, preserving and making available archival material.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 463


Archival data format- A format into which digital data object are converted for long-term preservation.


Archival value records- Records appraised as satisfying the Archives criteria for indefinite preservation.


Arrangement-  The intellectual and physical processes and results of analyzing and organizing documents in accordance with archival principles.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


The intellectual and physical process of putting archives and records into order in accordance with accepted archival principles, particularly those of provenance and original order. If, after detailed examination, the original order is identified as a totally haphazard accumulation making the records irretrievable (but not an odd, unorderly or difficult arrangement), the archivist may (after documenting the original order) impose an arrangement that presents the records objectively and facilitates their use.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 464


Benchmarking-  Benchmarking is an ongoing, systematic process to search for and introduce international best practice into your own organisation, conducted in such a way that all parts of your organisation understand and achieve their full potential. The search may be of products, services, business practices and processes, of competitors or those organisations recognised as leaders, in the industry or specific processes that you have chosen. Evans, Best Practice Program - Benchmarking Self-Help Manual, p.4


Business activity-  Umbrella term covering all the functions, processes, activities and transactions of an organisation and its employees.


Capture-  The process of determining that a record should be made and kept. This includes both records created and received by the organization. It involves deciding which documents are captured, which in turn implies decisions about who may have access to those documents and generally how long they are to be retained.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-2, Clause 4.3.2.


Classification-  The process of identifying the category or categories of business activity and the records they generate and grouping them, if applicable, into files to facilitate description, control, links and determination of disposition and access status.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-2, Clause 4.3.4


Classified Scheme-  These systems use a combination of numbers and/or letters, in which one or more elements indicate something specific about the function or activity documented by the file. Classified number systems are usually hierarchical in nature, with each successive element in the file number further specifying the function or activity. The last element is normally a consecutive number allocated within the classification identified by other elements.


e.g. 12/5/7

12 = relates to ROADS

5 = relates to CONSTRUCTION, a sub-classification of ROADS

7 = this is the seventh file to be created within the ROADS/CONSTRUCTION classification.


Collection-  An artificial assemblage of documents accumulated on the basis of some common characteristic without regard to the provenance of those documents. Not to be confused with an archival fonds.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Conversion-  Conversion is the process of changing records from one medium to another or from one format to another.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-1. Clause 3.7


Corporate body-  An organization or group of persons that is identified by a particular name and that acts, or may act, as an entity.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Corporate governance-  Corporate Governance is the system or process by which companies are directed and controlled. Corporate Governance is concerned with the way that the directors control the activities of the company and ensure that the managers to whom they delegate many functions are accountable. A good system of Corporate Governance should enable responsibility to be clearly defined. Directors ... have responsibility for the governance of their companies.

Hardman, 'Corporate Governance - A practical guide for directors and secretaries', p. 235


Creator-  The corporate body, family or person that created, accumulated and  / or maintained records in the conduct of personal or corporate activity.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Culling-  To remove selected documents from a file or a series because they lack archival value. Also referred to as stripping or weeding.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 466


Data archiving-  The process of creating and maintaining archived files within a computer system. An archived file is one which has been stored on some backing medium (eg magnetic tape) and not held permanently on-line to the main store. The file will not appear in the operating system's catalogue of current files, but can be reconstituted should the need arise.

Gunton, The Penguin Dictionary of Information Technology, p. 36


Data- Facts or instructions represented in a formalized manner, suitable for transmission, interpretation or processing manually or automatically.

13 International Council on Archives, Dictionary of Archival Terminology, KG Saur, Munich, 1988, p. 48.


Data management-  The function of controlling the acquisition, analysis, storage, retrieval, and distribution of data.

McDaniel, IBM Dictionary of Computing, p. 17


Description-   The process of recording information about the nature and content of records in archival custody. The description identifies such features as provenance, arrangement, format and contents, and presents them in standardised form.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 467


Digital Signature-   A security mechanism included within a digital object that enables the identification of the creator of the digital object, and that can also be used to detect and track any changes that have been made to the digital object.

Australian Government Information Management Office, Trusting the Internet – A Small Business Guide to E-security, July 2002


Digital record-  A record created and or maintained by means of a digital computer technology.  Digital records are a subset of electronic records.


Disaster plan-  A written procedure setting out the measures to be taken to minimise the risks and effects of disasters such as fire, flood or earthquake, etc., and to recover, save and secure the vital records should such a disaster occur.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 467


Disposition     A range of processes associated with implementing records retention, destruction or transfer decisions which are documented in disposition authorities or other instruments.  International Standard ISO/TR15489-1, Clause 3.9


1.         The final decision concerning the fate of records, i.e. destruction or transfer to archives. On rare occasions the disposal may be by sale or by donation.

2.         A program of activities to facilitate the orderly transfer of intermediate and inactive records from current office space into low-cost or archival storage. It includes surveys, scheduling and records destruction.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 467


Disposition classes-  Classes of records performing or recording similar activities and therefore having the same retention period and disposal action.


Disposition authority-  A systematic listing of records created by an organisation or agency which plans the life of these records from the time of their creation to their disposal. A disposal schedule is a continuing authority for implementing decisions on the value of records specified in the schedule. A disposal schedule lists:


• the records created by the agency

• the retention period for each series or class of records

• the disposal sentence for each series or class of records, specifying whether the records are to be retained as archives or destroyed

• the custody arrangements for each series or class of records, specifying when the records are to be transferred to intermediate storage and/or to archives.


1.         General disposal schedules cover functions common to a number of agencies, typically used by government archival authorities to cover functional areas such as Personnel, Finance and Stores.

2.         A recent development in appraisal methodology is the view that functional analysis is more efficient than records analysis in producing disposal schedules. The resultant disposal schedules are based on function or within function, either across a range of related organisations or to provide a specific disposal schedule for a particular agency.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 468


Distributed management-  Distributed management is an electronic recordkeeping strategy whereby the agency which created the electronic records maintains them in their computing environment, migrating them to new hardware and software platforms as that environment changes. It addresses technological change by exploiting the creating agency's need to periodically migrate current data to new platforms: electronic records of longer-term value are transferred at the same time.


Document       Recorded information or object which can be treated as a unit.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-1, Clause 3.10


Recorded information regardless of medium or characteristics.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1

1.         Recorded information regardless of medium or form.

2.         The smallest complete unit of record material, e.g, a letter, photograph, report.  Ellis (ed.), Keeping Archives, p. 469


Document means any record of information, and includes:

a.         anything on which there is writing, or

b.         anything on which there are marks, figures, symbols or perforations having a meaning for the person qualified to interpret them, or

c.         anything from which sounds, images or writings can be reproduced with or without the aid of anything else, or

d.         a map, plan, drawing or photograph.


Document Management System (DMS)-     An automated system used to support the creation, use and maintenance of electronically created documents for the purposes of improving an organisation’s workflow. These systems do not necessarily incorporate recordkeeping functionality and the documents may be of informational rather than evidential value (ie the documents may not be records).


Electronic messages-  A general term covering all forms of electronically-mediated communication. This includes electronic mail for text messages and an equivalent service that uses recordings of spoken messages, known as voice messaging. It may also include computer conferencing and videotext. Also used as synonymous with electronic mail.

Gunton, The Penguin Dictionary of Information Technology, p. 100


Electronic records-  Records communicated and maintained by means of electronic equipment.  Capable of being processed in a computer system and/or stored at any instant in a medium which requires electronic or computer equipment to retrieve them.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 469


Evidential value-  The value for providing evidence of the origins, structure, functions, policies and operations of the person or agency that created the records. The three major categories of records having evidential value are those that:

1.         have continuing administrative, legal or fiscal value for the individual or body that created them, or for any subsequent bodies

2.         record details that may serve to protect the civic, legal property or other right of individuals or the community at large

3.         reflect the development of the creating body, its structures, functions, policies, decisions and significant operations; or which reflect the evolution of the individual's career, interest or activities.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 462


File-  An organized unit of documents grouped together either for current use by the creator or in the process of archival arrangement, because they relate to the same subject, activity, or transaction. A file is usually a basic unit within a record series.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


A complete, named collection of information, such as a program, a set of data used by a program, or user-created document. A file is the basic unit of storage that enables a computer to distinguish one set of information from another. A file might or might not be stored in human-readable form, but it is still the "glue" that binds a conglomeration of instructions, numbers, words, or images into a coherent unit that a user can retrieve, change, delete, save or send to an output devise.

Microsoft Press, Computer Dictionary, p.470


A file is a collection of documents, which show organisational activities through an identifiable sequence of transactions. Individual documents on the file have relationships with each other, for example a letter and a reply, and a reply to that etc., which are preserved by being kept on file in the right order and are part of the evidence in the records.


Fonds-  The whole of the records, regardless of form or medium, organically created and  or accumulated and used by a particular person, family, or corporate body in the course of that creator’s activities and functions.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Form-  A class of documents distinguished on the basis of common physical (e.g. water colour, drawing) and / or intellectual (e.g. diary, journal, minute book) characteristics of a document.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Function-  The largest unit of business activity in an organisation or jurisdiction.


The term function is used to cover all responsibilities assigned to an agency to accomplish the broad purposes for which it was established. Usually these functions are defined in the law or directives that establishes the agency. Each function of an agency may be broken down into a number of "activities".

Schellenberg, Modern Archives - Principles and Techniques, p. 53


Functional analysis-  Functional analysis is the analysis of business activity. To undertake this analysis you must collect information from documentary sources and interviews; identify and document each business function, activity, transaction; establish a hierarchy of business functions, activities and transactions, that is, a business classification scheme; and identify and document the flow of business processes and the transactions which comprise them.


Functional records disposal schedule-  A Disposal schedule covering an agency's functional records, or those records that are unique to that particular agency.


General records disposal schedule-  General disposal schedules cover functions common to a number of agencies, typically used by government archival authorities to cover functional areas such as Personnel, Finance and Stores.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 468


Inactive records-  Those records no longer required for the conduct of business and which may therefore be transferred to intermediate storage, archival custody or destroyed.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 472


Index-  A systematically arranged list providing access to the contents of a file, document, or groups of documents, consisting of entries giving enough information to trace or locate each entry by means of a page number or other symbol.

Bellardo & Bellardo, A Glossary for Archivists, Manuscript Curators, and Records Managers, p. 24


Indexing-  The process of establishing access points to facilitate retrieval of records and/or information.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-2, Clause 3.11


Information management-  Information Management (IM) describes the measures required for the effective collection, storage, access, use and disposal of information to support agency business processes. The core of these measures is the management of the definition, ownership, sensitivity, quality and accessibility of information. These measures are addressed at appropriate stages in the strategic planning lifecycle and applied at appropriate stages in the operational lifecycle of the information itself.


Information resources management (IRM)-  The management of information resources of all kinds across the organisation. Broad in scope, it is seen as an `umbrella' field involving information technologies and information disciplines such as records management, computer and communications systems management and librarianship, all of which must work together to promote effective control of an organisation's information resources.

Kennedy and Schauder, Records: A Guide for Students and Practitioners of Records Management, p. 281


Information systems-  Organised collections of hardware, software, policies, procedures and people, which store, process and provide access to information.

Informational value        The value for reference or research deriving from the information the records contain, as distinct from their evidential value. Records and archives often contain information that has reference or research uses not envisaged by its creators. Also referred to as secondary value.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 462


Intellectual control-  The control established over the informational content of records and archives resulting from ascertaining and documenting their provenance, and from the processes of arrangement and description.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 472


Item-  The smallest individually indivisible archival unit, e.g., a letter, memorandum, report, photograph, sound recording.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


The smallest discrete unit of record material which accumulates to form a series (i.e. a file or part file in a series of files; a volume in a series of volumes, etc.)...

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 473


Level of description-  The position of the unit of description in the hierarchy of the fonds.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Medium-  The physical material, container, and / or carrier in or on which information is recorded (i.e., paper, film, magnetic tape).

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Metadata-  Data describing context, content and structure of records and their management through time.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-1, Clause 3.12


Permanent paper-  Acid-free paper, with a protective alkaline buffer and ph of 8 to 10, containing low levels of undesirable substances such as lignin and acidic sizing. Also referred to as non-acidic paper.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p.475


Physical control-  The control established over the physical aspects (such as format, quantity and location) of the archives and records in custody.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 476


Preservation   Processes and operations involved in ensuring the technical and intellectual survival of authentic records through time.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-1, Clause 3.14


The actions which enable the materials in an archives to be retained for as long as they are needed i.e. the basic functions of storing, protecting and maintaining records and archives in archival custody.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p .476


Provenance-  The relationship between records and the organizations or individuals that created, accumulated, and / or maintained and used them in the conduct of personal or corporate activity.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


1.         The agency, office or person of origin of records, i.e. the entity which created, received or accumulated and used the records in the conduct of business or personal life. Also referred to as records creator.

2.         The chain of custody which reflects the office(s) or person(s) that created, received or accumulated and used the records in the conduct of business or in the course of personal life. Identifying and documenting the provenance of records is an essential part of establishing their authenticity and integrity as evidence.

3.         In archival theory, the principle of provenance requires that archives of an agency or person not be mixed or combined with the archives of another, i.e. the archives are retained and documented in their functional and/or organisational context.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 476


Reappraisal-  The process of re-evaluating the holdings of an archives or manuscript repository to determine which holdings should be retained and which should be deaccessioned. Reappraisal is also known as retention review.

Bellardo and Bellardo, A Glossary for Archivists, Manuscript Curators, and Records Managers, p. 28


Recordkeeping regime-  A system of rules governing the making and maintaining of records within a given jurisdiction. The recordkeeping regime is supported by guidance and a range of tools and services, supplied directly by the governing authority or by third parties.

Roberts, 'Building a recordkeeping regime across Government', p. 4

Recordkeeping requirements, Requirements for evidence that may be satisfied through recordkeeping.


Recordkeeping systems-  Information system which captures, maintains and provide access to records through time.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-1, Clause 3.17


Recordkeeping systems may be distinguished from other types of information systems by the fact they are organised to accomplish the specific functions of creating, storing and accessing records for evidential purposes.

Bearman, 'Record-keeping Systems', p. 17


Records-  information in any form or medium, created or received and maintained, by an organization or person in the transaction of business or the conduct of affairs.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


All documentary materials, regardless of physical type, received or originated by the United Nations or by members of its staff, excluding United Nations documents.

United Nations ST/AI/326, Clause V 12.


Records lifecycle-  The whole extent of a record's existence from the time of the creation of records (and before creation, in the design of recordkeeping systems), through to the preservation and use of records as archives.


Records management-  Field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-1, Clause 3.16


Records management program-  A records management program is the program conducted on an organisation-wide basis for the management of records, recordkeeping activities and recordkeeping systems.


Records management system (RMS) – An automated system used to manage the creation, use, maintenance and disposal of electronically created records for the purposes of providing evidence of business activities. These systems maintain appropriate contextual information (metadata) and links between records to support their value as evidence.


Retention period-  The period of time, usually based on an estimate of the frequency of current and future use, and taking into account statutory and regulatory provisions, that records need to be retained before their final disposal. Sometimes used to indicate the length of time records are to be retained in offices before being transferred to intermediate storage.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 479


Secondary storage-  A low-cost, warehouse-style repository or storage area where inactive or intermediate records are housed and referenced pending their ultimate destruction or transfer to archives.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 472


Semi-active records   Those records that are required so infrequently in the conduct of current business that they can be transferred from offices to separate [secondary] storage areas. Also referred to as non-current records or semi-current records.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 472


Sentencing-  The act of applying the relevant disposal schedule to records.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 479


Series-  (Also known as records series) Documents arranged in accordance with a filing system or maintained as a unit because they result from the same accumulation or filing process, or in the same activity; have a particular form,; or because of some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Those records or archives having the same provenance which belong together because:

they are part of a discernible filing system (alphabetical, numerical, chronological, or a combination of these)they have been kept together because the result from the same activity or they are of similar formats and relate to a particular function.

A series may also consist of one item. Also referred to as record series.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 479


Standards-  Records management and recordkeeping standards are authoritative standards to which an organisation is subject or which it chooses to adopt. Standards provide benchmarks for measuring performance and describe best practises in any or all aspects of recordkeeping. Thus standards may function to specify minimum performance levels or describe best practice.


Storage-  The decision to capture a record implies an intention to store it. Appropriate storage conditions ensure that records are protected, accessible and managed in a cost-effective manner.

International Standard ISO/TR15489-2, 4.3.7


Survey-  The process of gathering information in a systematic and consistent way about records in their administrative context. The most common uses of a survey are:

1.         an examination of archives to ascertain their provenance, original order and interrelationships prior to commencing full arrangement and description processes

2.         an examination of active or intermediate records noting briefly their nature, systems of arrangements, date ranges, quantities, function, physical condition, reference activity and rates of accumulation. This information is used to develop disposal schedules, plan conservation, or project space requirements, among other users. Also referred to as record survey.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 480


Temporary records-  Records with no archival value that can be sentenced for destruction.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 480


Title-  A word, phrase, character, or group of characters that names a unit of description.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Tracking-  Creating, capturing and maintaining information about the movement and use of records

International Standard ISO/TR15489-1, Clause 3.19


Transaction-  The smallest unit of business activity. Uses of records are themselves transactions.


Transfer-  The process of changing the physical custody of archives, generally without changing the legal title of the material.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 480


Unit of description-  A document or set of documents in any physical form, treated as an entity and as such, forming the basis of a single description.

General International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G), Section 0.1


Vital records   Those records that are essential for the ongoing business of an agency, and without which the agency could not continue to function effectively. The identification and protection of such records is a primary object of records management and disaster planning.

Ellis (ed), Keeping Archives, p. 480


XML-  (eXtensible Markup Language) – A simple, flexible computer language developed by the World Wide Web Consortium as an open, non-proprietary technology that creates common information formats so that both the format and the data can be shared between organisations, regardless of their respective Internet computing platforms.  Australian Government Information Management Office, B2B E-Commerce: Capturing Value Online, 2001, p. 90.