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Woodcut illustration crafted in 1493.
Schedel, Hartmann, Michael Wolgemut, and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. 
Lib[er] cronicarum [Nuremberg Chronicle]. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493.


This selection of definitions and phrases is compiled directly from these sources. 

1. Pearce-Moses, Richard. A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology. Society of American Archivists, 2005.
2. Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy from the Society of American Archivists

1. The ability to locate relevant information through the use of catalogs, indexes, finding aids, or other tools. - 2. The permission to locate and retrieve information for use (consultation or reference) within legally established restrictions of privacy, confidentiality, and security clearance. - 3. Computing · The physical processes of retrieving information from storage media.

The process of identifying, reviewing, and abstracting the components of something. 

Of or pertaining to archives. 2. Records · Having enduring value; permanent. 3. Records media · Durable; lacking inherent vice; long-lived; see archival quality. 4. Storage conditions · Not causing degradation. 5. Procedures · Following accepted standards that ensure maximum longevity. 6. Computing ·Information of long-term value that, because of its low use, is stored on offline media and must be reloaded, or that is in a form that must be reconstructed before use.

Archives: See Special Collections / Archives 

Archivist / Librarian
An information professional responsible for collecting/acquiring, organizing, describing, managing, and providing access to research materials, including collections of primary and/or secondary sources. This person usually works in the context of a library, archive, or other cultural heritage institution. 

A human-made, physical object.

A bound volume consisting primarily of maps, often with descriptive text and indexes. 

Having sound and pictorial attributes, especially when combined.

As relates to primary sources, authority may refer to the relative credibility and expertise of the creator(s) of a source, or it may refer to the authority to preserve, collect, access, and use/reuse. 

Authenticity is closely associated with the creator (or creators) of a source. The authenticity of records and documents is usually presumed, but if questioned it can sometimes be verified by testing physical and stylistic characteristics of a record. Authenticity alone does not automatically imply that the content of a record is reliable.

A prejudice in favor of one thing or person over another. Sources may include the biases of their creator(s) and of the individuals and institutions that collect these sources. Since bias may be implicit rather than obvious, a source may reflect unconscious or unintentional bias. 

Catalog Record
Descriptions of materials, whether books or manuscript collections, in a specific common format. Such records generally contain information including author, title, publication information, and topics covered in the resource. These records are often searched using a database, usually a library catalog. See also: Finding Aid 

A reference to a source. When citing a primary source, the citation helps point readers to the document or item. Citations may also further describe a source, help establish evidence for an argument, or give credit for an idea. Citation style refers to the format of citation and rules for its construction (examples: MLA, APA, or Chicago). Different disciplines may prefer one style over another. Archives and special collections may indicate a preferred citation formula or credit line for their collections. 

"A group of materials with some unifying characteristic," often related either to the topic, the creator, or the assembler. Collections can be assembled by a person, organization, or repository. Collections can be referred to as "papers" or "records" in the context of a repository. 

Content Analysis
A methodology to appraise records by considering the significance of the informational value and the quality of information contained in the records. 

Context Analysis
A methodology for assessing the value of records in light of other sources of the same or similar information. Context analysis considers whether information in the records is unique, is in a preferred form, is of superior quality, is scarce, or is in some form that enhances the importance or usefulness of the records.

A legal right granting exclusive rights for use, reproduction, publication, adaptation, performance, and/or distribution of an original work (whether published or unpublished), typically for a limited period of time. Copyright law is intended to balance the economic and creative interests of the rights holder with the desire of a public to use, adapt, or build upon previous work. Copyright law varies by country. See also Fair Use and Permissions. 

Written communication, especially those sent by courier or post; letters. 2. The process of communicating in writing.

"The individual, family, group, or organization that is responsible for a source's production, accumulation, or formation." Creators of primary sources include artists, authors, and manufacturers. An individual who accumulates and compiles a collection of primary sources may also be seen as the creator (of the collection), even when they did not create the sources themselves. 

Cultural Understanding
The ability to understand the viewpoint of those from other cultures, whether in the present or past, and to understand shared or conflicted history. Understanding the importance of studying and preserving the records of many and created from many points of view. 

Data Set
A collection of related information, especially information formatted for analysis by a computer.

A structured way to store and retrieve data. In the research and information environment, it often refers to a digital collection of citations, articles, books, and/or finding aids which can be searched for information on a variety of topics. 

A subject, field of study, or area of expertise. In the college/university environment, this could align with an academic department or program of study.

1. Any written or printed work; a writing. 2. Information or data fixed in some media. 3. Information or data fixed in some media, but which is not part of the official record; a nonrecord. 4. A written or printed work of a legal or official nature that may be used as evidence or proof; a record.

Materials, usually printed documents, created for a specific, limited purpose, and generally designed to be discarded after use. Examples of ephemera include advertisements, tickets, brochures, and receipts. A repository may collect ephemera as examples or specimens. 

Primary sources serve as evidence used in answering a research question, proving or disproving a fact, or developing an argument. The strength of supporting evidence and the approach by which it is gathered and applied to a claim impact the credibility of the claim, and relate to authority

Fair Use 
Permissible use of copyrighted material. In the United States, use that is not considered infringement generally includes criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and parody. 

Finding Aid
A description of papers, records, or a manuscript collection that provides information about the materials, including arrangement and organization, historical or biographical background, a summary of the contents of a collection, and location of materials. These descriptions are used to locate relevant items within the collection. A finding aid is written through the process of arrangement and description, in which an archivist organizes materials and details their content. See also: Catalog Record 

The container or method of presentation of a source. Descriptions of source formats might include those which identify the type of source (letter, diary, or photograph) or those which identify its state (physical or digital; handwritten or reprinted). 

Historical Empathy
The ability to appreciate the beliefs, values, and intentions of historical actors; to understand the differences inherent between the lives of current readers and past users; to show emotional engagement with a source; and to see and appreciate source(s) within their particular historical context.

Iterative Process
All research is a repetitive cycle, requiring frequent returns to and revisions of earlier questions and assumptions, thus leading to new readings of texts and sources and new lines of inquiry.

Librarian / Archivist : see Archivist / Librarian 

1. A collection of published materials, including books, magazines, sound and video recordings, and other formats. 2. A building used to house such a collection.

Competency, knowledge, or skills in a specified area. Literacy is not a binary state, but rather a spectrum of competence within the area. Primary source literacy, information literacy, digital literacy, and visual literacy are all relevant to working with primary sources. 

1. A handwritten document. 2. An unpublished document. 3. An author's draft of a book, article, or other work submitted for publication. Any text in handwriting or typescript (including printed forms completed by hand or typewriter) which may or may not be part of a collection of such texts. Examples of manuscripts are letters, diaries, ledgers, minutes, speeches, marked or corrected galley or page proofs, manuscript books, and legal papers.

1. A graphic representation of features of the Earth or another celestial body. 2. A representation of the relationships among things.

The physical nature or format of a source. This is often distinguished from the content or the text of the source, although the best readings interrogate and elucidate both text and format. Often associated with material culture, the study of objects (rather than paper- or text-based sources) to learn about the past. 

A general term used for any medium, transparent or opaque, that holds highly reduced reproductions.

The process of moving data from one information system or storage medium to another to ensure continued access to the information as the system or medium becomes obsolete or degrades over time.

Nontextual Records
Records in audiovisual, pictorial, and sound formats. "Nontextual records" is used generically to include records formats that are not principally words on paper, such as maps, photographs, motion pictures and video, sound recordings, and the like. In some repositories, electronic records are treated as a third major category of records.

An item that is tangible, especially one with significant depth relative to its height and width; an artifact or specimen.

1. A privilege, property, or authority granted to an individual by a government or sovereign. 2. Intellectual property. The exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention that is novel, useful, and not obvious. 3. The record of such a grant or right. Notes: The Constitution grants the United States Congress the authority to issues patents. Patents are codified in 35 USC 101-103.

If a particular use of a copyrighted work is not covered by fair use, a researcher may require authorization from the rights holders in order to use the work in certain ways. 

1. A still picture formed on a light-sensitive surface using an optical system and fixed by a photochemical process. 2. An image rendered using a camera.

A card, commonly 4 × 6 inches, used for sending short messages through the mail.

The professional discipline of protecting materials by minimizing chemical and physical deterioration and damage to minimize the loss of information and to extend the life of cultural property. 

Primary Source 
Material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness. Primary sources emphasize the lack of intermediaries between the thing or events being studied and reports of those things or events based on the belief that firsthand accounts are more accurate. Examples of primary sources include letters and diaries; government, church, and business records; oral histories; photographs, motion pictures, and videos; maps and land records; and blueprints. Newspaper articles contemporaneous with the events described are traditionally considered primary sources, although the reporter may have compiled the story from witnesses, rather than being an eyewitness. Artifacts and specimens may also be primary evidence if they are the object of study.

1. The quality or state of being free from public scrutiny. 2. The quality or state of having one's personal information or activities protected from unauthorized use by another. Notes: Under tort law, invasion of privacy includes theft of one's identity, intentionally disturbing one's solitude, disclosing nonpublic information about another, and placing another in a false public light. In some states, publicity rights are covered under privacy laws.

1. The origin or source of something. 2. Information regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of an item or collection.

Public Domain 
Works that are in the public domain do not have copyright restrictions. This could be because copyright or other intellectual property rights expired or were forfeited, because the work was created before such laws existed, because the work is not covered by copyright (as is the case with recipes or some government documents), or because the creator released the work under a public domain-like license allowing certain uses. Privacy and other ethical considerations should still be weighed when using materials in the public domain. 

A place where things can be stored and maintained; a storehouse. Notes: Used throughout this work to refer to any type of organization that holds documents, including business, institutional, and government archives, manuscript collections, libraries, museums, and historical societies, and in any form, including manuscripts, photographs, moving image and sound materials, and their electronic equivalents.

Research Question 
An idea or inquiry which drives a research project. A good research question is answerable, arguable, and is not too broad or too narrow. A research question is more specific to a particular issue or concern than a research topic. 

Limitations on access to or use of materials. 

Secondary Source
1. A work that is not based on direct observation of or evidence directly associated with the subject, but instead relies on sources of information.
2. A work commenting on another work (primary sources), such as reviews, criticism, and commentaries.

Gaps or missing pieces in the historical record, often caused by those who were unable to write their own records, or whose records were not considered valuable or were suppressed by the dominant culture. 

Sound Recording
Any medium capable of capturing and reproducing an audible signal. " Sound recording" is a generic term used to encompass a wide range of formats, including phonograph records, magnetic tape, compact discs, and computer files. The term does not include multimedia recordings that include sound, such as the soundtrack on a motion picture.

A place where information is found, such as a document, book, or encyclopedia. Sources can be primary, secondary, or tertiary. 

Special Collections/Archives 
These terms each have multiple meanings, and are often used interchangeably. "Archive" is also a variation, used in a general way to describe things that are being intentionally kept. 1. A general term for a department, unit, library, or other physical place which stores and provides secure access to rare and unique materials, including archives, manuscripts, rare books, or other original materials. A special collections department is an example of a type of repository. 2. The materials or collections within a department, unit, or library containing rare and unique materials. 

Surrogate: See Copy

Textual Records
A general classification of records with content that is principally written words. Textual records are distinguished from nontextual records, which include audiovisual, cartographic, and machine-readable records.

A document produced using a typewriter. Typewritten documents are generally classified as manuscripts but are more accurately described as typescripts.

Visual Materials
A generic term used to collectively describe items of a pictorial nature, including prints, paintings, photographs, motion pictures, and video.