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Archival Intelligence: searching archive catalogues and finding aids. Who are the ‘Archivally Intelligent’?. Expert users of archives can do research successfully within the systems and procedures of the archives.” (National Archives UK blog, 2012)

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who are the archivally intelligent
Who are the ‘Archivally Intelligent’?
  • Expert users of archives can do research successfully within the systems and procedures of the archives.” (National Archives UK blog, 2012)
    • They understand archival concepts, such as provenance 2, and ‘speak the language’ of archives, using words such as series 3
    • They can use catalogues, indexes and other finding aids 4 or search tools, both online and in paper form, to search for records. They can make the mental connections between their research topics, the finding aids and the records themselves
    • They understand the referencing system and cite references properly
    • They prepare thoroughly and carefully for research trips
    • If the research path is difficult or complicated, they can persevere and keep going
    • Following the reading room rules is second nature to them
    • When they visit different archives, or use different archives’ websites, they can pick up and adjust to variations in how things are done
  • Above all, archivally intelligent users can form a research strategy and carry it through
archival concepts
Archival Concepts
  • Respect des fonds
    • 19th century French concept – fonds were the surviving archives of a department (fonds) and are kept and retained as one entity. Records of different departments were not mixed together (e.g. records from different creators with the name of one place aren’t put together, or linked by subject – think Dewey).
  • Provenance
    • The original creator of a record
    • Chain of custody and use
    • Records are kept and described so that this context is maintained and identified
  • Original Order
    • The order in which records are created and used. Internal and external links between records are retained and maintained. May be modified by custodians as the records are used, but no other order is imposed on them by the archives.
archival description
Archival Description

“Speak the language…”

  • Fonds(UK, US, Canada, Europe)
  • Records Group (US, early Australian practice)
  • Series (Australia
    • Item, file, piece or folder
    • Accession and consignment
    • Function and activity

See the American Society of Archivists glossary ( and the ICA glossary for more terms ( ).

archival description1
Archival Description
  • Is hierarchical
  • But also relational
  • Basic description defined by International Standards
    • ISAD (G)
australian series registration system entities
Australian Series Registration system entities

Context Entities

Context Entities

Agency Entities


Agency/ Person

Function Entities



Agency Entities


Agency/ Person [WAA]


Function Entities




Record Entities

Record Series [WAS]


Document [SRO Piece]


using catalogues and finding aids
Using catalogues and Finding Aids

The ‘acid’ test


National Archives UK

the state archives collection
The State archives collection
  • Archives: materials deemed to have long term cultural or historical value
  • Archives created by WA Colonial, State and Local Governments since 1829
  • Mandatory transfer to SRO custody in accordance with the State Records Act 2000. Prior to that, transfer was optional.
the state archives collection1
The State archives collection
  • State Archives collection began 1945
  • Currently 15km in State Records Office custody
  • Currently 50km in Agency custody
using catalogues and finding aids1
Using catalogues and Finding Aids


New SROWA catalogue (in development)

using catalogues and finding aids2
Using catalogues and Finding Aids

More terminology – what is a Finding Aid?

Descriptions of records that provide both users and archives staff with information about the records, providing physical and intellectual control over the records.

AJCP handbook?


AN listings Chief Protector of Aborigines listing

Information sheets


Ancestry database?

The registers, indexes and control records produced by the creator of the records.

CSO registers

Divorce registers

Dead names Index Probate index

referencing material
Referencing material
  • Referencing will depend on what you are doing –
      • University assignment
      • Public report
      • Journal article
      • Book
  • But each system has some fundamental rules
    • Author/creator/responsible authority statement (ISAAR/CPF)
    • Title
    • Type of material
    • Date range
    • Where located (series, folder, item)
    • Publisher, library or archive location information - WAS, cons, item (or vice versa), SROWA.
reading room rules
Reading Room Rules
  • Clean dry hands
  • Handle things carefully
  • Use supports
  • Pencils
  • No sticky markers
  • Let the staff know if you find a damaged item (not immediately apparent when they hand it over)
  • No food or drink
  • No bags
now you are archivally intelligent
Now you are archivally intelligent
  • But sometimes, you want some reassurance or extra help
    • 08 9427 3600