Teaching, Learning & Research with Heritage Resources: Definitions

Information on how to use Heritage Resources collections for teaching, learning and research.

Primary and Secondary Sources

Definitions and notes from Richard Peace-Moses, A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology (Society of American Archivists, 2005) http://www.archivists.org/glossary/index.asp (accessed 2010 June 11):

  • Primary Sources Definition   n. ~ Material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness. Notes. 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.
  • Secondary Sources  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.

 

Archival Terminology

Definitions and notes below are from Richard Peace-Moses, A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology (Society of American Archivists, 2005) http://www.archivists.org/glossary/index.asp (accessed 2010 June 11):

  • Archives Definition. (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 contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control; permanent records. – 2. The division within an organization responsible for maintaining the organization's records of enduring value. – 3. An organization that collects the records of individuals, families, or other organizations; a collecting archives. – 4. The professional discipline of administering such collections and organizations. – 5. The building (or portion thereof) housing archival collections. – 6. A published collection of scholarly papers, especially as a periodical.
  • Archival Records Definition. n. ~ Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs that are preserved because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator. Notes. 'Archival records' connotes documents rather than artifacts or published materials, although collections of archival records may contain artifacts and books. Archival records may be in any format, including text on paper or in electronic formats, photographs, motion pictures, videos, sound recordings. The phrase archival records is sometimes used as an expanded form of archives to distinguish the holdings from the program.
  • Manuscript Collection Definition n. ~ A collection of personal or family papers. Notes. Although manuscript literally means handwritten, 'manuscript collection' is often used to include collections of mixed media in which unpublished materials predominate. They may also include typescripts, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, news clippings, and printed works.
  • Manuscript Repository Definition. n. ~ An institution that collects historically valuable records of individuals, families, and organizations from sources other than the organization that operates the institution.
  • Finding Aid Definition. 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. Notes. Finding aid includes a wide range of formats, including card indexes, calendars, guides, inventories, shelf and container lists, and registers. – Finding aid is a single document that places the materials in context by consolidating information about the collection, such as acquisition and processing; provenance, including administrative history or biographical note; scope of the collection, including size, subjects, media; organization and arrangement; and an inventory of the series and the folders.