Archival Management is the general oversight of a program to appraise, acquire, arrange and describe, preserve, authenticate, and provide access to permanently valuable records.
Archives administration includes establishing the program’s mission and goals, securing necessary resources to support those activities, and evaluating the program’s performance. Archives management is distinguished from library, museum, and historical manuscripts traditions by the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control to preserve the materials’ authenticity, context, and intellectual character.
The concept of record is variously defined. The ISO 15489-1:2016 defines records as “information created, received, and maintained as evidence and as an asset by an organization or person, in pursuit of legal obligations or in the transaction of business”. While there are many purposes of and benefits to records management, as both these definitions highlight, a key feature of records is their ability to serve as evidence of an event. Proper records management can help preserve this feature of records.
Recent and comprehensive studies have defined records as “persistent representations of activities” as recorded or created by participants or observers. This transactional view emphasizes the importance of context and process in the determination and meaning of records. In contrast, previous definitions have emphasized the evidential and informational properties of records. In organizational contexts, records are materials created or received by an organization in the transaction of business, or in pursuit of or in compliance with legal obligations. This organizational definition of record stems from the early theorization of archives as organic aggregations of records, that is “the written documents, drawings and printed matter, officially received or produced by an administrative body or one of its officials”
Not all documents are records. A record is a document consciously retained as evidence of an action. Records management systems generally distinguish between records and non-records (convenience copies, rough drafts, duplicates), which do not need formal management. Many systems, especially for electronic records, require documents to be formally declared as a record so they can be managed. Once declared, a record cannot be changed and can only be disposed of within the rules of the system.
Records may be covered by access controls to regulate who can access them and under what circumstances. Physical controls may be used to keep confidential records secure – personnel files, for instance, which hold sensitive personal data, may be held in a locked cabinet with a control log to track access. Digital records systems may include role-based access controls, allowing permissions (to view, change and/or delete) to be allocated to staff depending on their role in the organisation. An audit trail showing all access and changes can be maintained to ensure the integrity of the records.
Just as the records of the organization come in a variety of formats, the storage of records can vary throughout the organization. File maintenance may be carried out by the owner, designee, a records repository, or clerk. Records may be managed in a centralized location, such as a records center or repository, or the control of records may be decentralized across various departments and locations within the entity. Records may be formally and discretely identified by coding and housed in folders specifically designed for optimum protection and storage capacity, or they may be casually identified and filed with no apparent indexing. Organizations that manage records casually find it difficult to access and retrieve information when needed. The inefficiency of filing maintenance and storage systems can prove to be costly in terms of wasted space and resources expended searching for records.
An inactive record is a record that is no longer needed to conduct current business but is being preserved until it meets the end of its retention period, such as when a project ends, a product line is retired, or the end of a fiscal reporting period is reached. These records may hold business, legal, fiscal, or historical value for the entity in the future and, therefore, are required to be maintained for a short or permanent duration. Records are managed according to the retention schedule. Once the life of a record has been satisfied according to its predetermined period and there are no legal holds pending, it is authorized for final disposition, which may include destruction, transfer, or permanent preservation.