Special Collections & University Archives: Glossary

An introduction to conducting research at GVSU's Special Collections & University Archives

Archival Terminology

Common Terms

Archives: 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. Also used to refer to the department responsible for maintaining records of enduring value. 

Accession: To take legal and physical custody of a group of records or other materials and to formally document their receipt

Collection:  A group of materials with some unifying characteristic.

Container List: An inventory of the materials in each box (or container) within a collection. (Also called a box list or components list).

Finding Aid: A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records and assists users to gain access to and understand the materials.

Linear Feet: A measure of shelf space. A linear foot measures twelve inches for documents stored on edge.

Processing: The arrangement, description, and housing of archival materials for storage and use by patrons.

Provenance: Information regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of an item or collection.

Repository: 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.

-Definitions adapted slightly from SAA Glossary, available in the link above. 

Subjects: History, Other Guides
  • Last Updated: May 1, 2024 12:35 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.gvsu.edu/archives