Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto - OCS, 15th INTERNATIONAL ISKO CONFERENCE

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Sonia Troitiño

Last modified: 2018-02-21


The archival notion of organization of knowledge is closely related to the process of functional contextualization of records.  However, what is rarely discussed are the different parameters that can be adopted for Knowledge Organization (KO) in the sphere of Archival Science. This paper proposes a reflection on the importance of recovering information relating to the history of the entity and the custodial trajectory of a archive from creation of a record until it enters a repository for the processing, information contextualization and consequent knowledge organization.

Birger Hjørland (2016) states that

“KO is about describing, representing, filing and organizing documents and document representations as well as subjects and concepts both by humans and by computer programs. For these purposes, rules and standards are developed, including classification systems, lists of subject headings, thesauri and other forms of metadata. The organization of knowledge into classification systems and concept systems are core subjects in KO. The two main aspects of KO are (1) knowledge organization processes (KOP) and (2) knowledge organization systems (KOS). Knowledge organization processes (KOP) are, for example, the processes of cataloging, subject analysis, indexing and classification by humans or computers. Knowledge organization systems (KOS) are the selection of concepts with an indication of selected semantic relations.”

In addition, according to the author, the organization of archival knowledge should be considered part of Knowledge Organization itself (Hjørland, 2016). On the other hand, Mario Barité (2001) states that the first basic premise of the Knowledge Organization is the understanding of knowledge as a product and social need.

When we consider different processes for organization of knowledge in the context of Archival Science, we are faced with more than one way to contextualize records.  Therefore, choosing one kind of historical information as a parameter for archival processing, in the same way as recovering the knowledge of the systems for keeping and custody of a set of documents that have the same origin, reveal the criteria adopted for archival organization.

Among the options considered here, we discuss the boundaries between institutional history/biography and administrative history of the entity producing the recordas as well as the archival history and custodial trajectory of records and how they lead to specific knowledge providing a greater understanding of the bureaucratic-social system of production, use and filing of records.  Dictionaries and glossaries of archival terminology do not usually define the above-mentioned expressions although we recurrently come across them in specialized literature of the area. As a rule, the use of these terms, when used in texts on archives and documentation is more intuitive than based on methodological procedures of information contextualization of records.

There are only a few reference works that address the theme.  However, we sought to track some information for a definition.  For this, we have consulted Dicionário de Terminologia Arquivística (Camargo e Bellotto, 2012), Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology (Pearce-Moses, 2005), Lenguaje y Vocabulario Archivísticos (Heredia Herrera, 2011), Diccionário de Archivística (Cruz Mundet, 2011) and others.

What we saw when we analyzed reference books is that very few of them define the terms to which we refer, though we find descriptions relating to them. In a way, this shows a gap in the bibliography, given that they are terms frequently used on the day to day of collection organization work, normally applied indiscriminately. Often, these expressions are incorporated into the methodology of archival work, such as for example in procedures that are essential for creating a classification schems, in a background or in national and international standards of archival descriptions, such as ISADg (2000) and Nobrade (2006).

We saw that the distinction between administrative history and institutional history is based on the focus and perspective adopted as a reference. While the former is concerned with recovering organization and functional structures of a given entity and its reflection on document records arising from the execution of its activities, the latter focuses on a wider understanding of the entity, which includes identity, company mission and their role in society. Archival history in turn, is concerned with identifying and understanding the interventions relating to document organization made to a collection. Custodial history studies the trajectory of a collection from creation of records to their preservation and guardianship in close relation to the understanding of document ownership and custody.

As a result, we have seen throughout this survey that the choice of a parameter to be adopted for contextualization directly interferes in the completeness of the set of information to be used in the archival organization and in the finding aids.  Therefore, to speak of institutional history, administrative history or archival history means recovering distinct values that, when interrelated in a descriptive plan, have the ability to reflect more widely the context of a document within its life cycle than when used in isolation. This gives us indications to make us think that distinct dimensions of knowledge should be considered in the phase of information contextualization of an organization.

The survey results lead us to think that information relating to the history of a archive regardless of the parameter adopted reveals aspects that are fundamental for the processes of archival organization – especially those relating to classification and evidence of archival bond.  Each one of these histories is equally capable of assisting users of fonds and collections to have access to documentation because it enables them to have access to more consistent and complete information of the collection they are poring over.

Keywords: Archival Science; Knowledge Organization; Archival History; Administrative History


Hjørland, Birger (2016) Knowledge Organization, vol. 43, Issue 6, pp. 475-484. Available at http://www.isko.org/cyclo/knowledge_organization#ref.

Barité, Mário (2001) Organización del conocimiento: un nuevo marco teórico-conceptual en bibliotecologia y documentación. In: Carrara, Kester(org.). Educação, universidade e pesquisa. SP: Unesp-Marília-Publicações/Fapesp.

Pearce-Moses, Richard (2005) A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

CAMARGO, Ana Maria de Almeida e BELLOTO, Heloísa Liberalli (2012). Dicionário de terminologia arquivística. 3ª ed. SP: ARQ-SP.

Heredia Herrera, Antonia (2011). Lenguaje y vocabulario archivísticos: algo más que un diccionario. Andalucía: Junta de Andalucía/Consejeria de Cultura.

Cruz Mundet, José Ramón (2011). Diccionario de archivística. Madrid: Alianza Editorial