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Report from Toronto Archival Context Meeting

March 2001


Appendix B

Statement of principles: the Toronto Tenets


Toronto Tenets:  Principles and Criteria for a Model for Archival Context Information[1]


This document defines principles and criteria for designing, developing, and maintaining a representational scheme and communication structure for archival context information.


A description of archival records sufficient to support the accurate interpretation of the records must include a description of the circumstances that surrounded their creation and use.  Primary among these circumstances is a recording of information about the creative responsibility for the records, usually vested in an organization or person(s).  With this information, users can understand the records more completely since they will know the context within which the organization or person operated and created records.


This model primarily addresses the description of creating entities, a central component to the description of archival records, and clearly an archival responsibility.  It recognizes the existence of other information, such as functions and business processes, geographic places, events, concepts, and topics, that are crucial to archival description, which are also important, but which may be defined more fully by other agencies and not included in this model.


While traditional heading control functions may be accommodated by this model, its primary purpose is to standardize descriptions about records creators so that they can be discovered and displayed in an electronic environment, linked to each other to show/discover the relationships amongst record-creating entities, and linked to descriptions of records.



Definitions and Uses


1.      Archival context information consists of information describing the circumstances under which records (defined broadly here to include personal papers and records of organizations) have been created and used.  This context includes the identification and characteristics of the persons, organizations, and families who have been the creators, users, or subjects of records, as well as the relationships amongst them.


2.      Context information is not metadata that describes other information resources, but information that describes entities that are part of the environment in which information resources (i.e., records) have existed.


3.      The recording of context information in archival information systems directly supports a more complete description and understanding of records as well as the provenance approach to retrieval of these records across time and domains.


4.      Context information also can have value as an independent information resource, separate from its use in supporting the description, retrieval, and interpretation of records.


5.      This model is also intended to support the exchange and sharing of context information, especially in those instances where repositories have holdings or interests that have context information in common, especially about creators or subjects of records.



Structure and Content


6.      Context information has traditionally been embedded in catalog records, finding aids, and other archival descriptive tools.  This model can be used either as a component of existing descriptive approaches that fully integrate contextual information into descriptive products or as an independent system that is linked to descriptive systems and products.


7.      Each instance of context information describes a single entity.


8.      The model provides a framework within which the full range and depth of context information can be recorded and suggests a minimum set of elements for describing an entity, but defers recommendations for appropriate use of other elements to application guidelines developed for specific implementations.


9.      The model defines a universe of elements used to describe entities and the structure of interrelationships amongst those elements.  These elements and structure support the discovery, navigation, and presentation of context information and the linking of that information to descriptions of records, especially those encoded according to EAD, MARC, and similar standards.


10.  The model supports the linking of descriptions of contextual entities to digital or other surrogate representations of those entities.



Technical Issues


11.  The model is expressed as an XML-compliant document type definition to encourage platform independence and portability of information.  The model may also be implemented using other approaches.



Components, Relationship to ISAAR(CPF), and Ownership


12.  Two parts: dtd and guidelines.


13.  The model was designed as an implementation of the International Standard for Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families -ISAAR(CPF).  ISAAR(CPF) was under review at the time the model was being developed and the model may incorporate different approaches than that defined in the original ISAAR(CPF) standard.  Principles and approaches adopted for the model will be submitted to the International Council on Archives Committee on Descriptive Standards to inform their review of ISAAR(CPF).  It is expected that the model will fully conform to the revised ISAAR(CPF).


14.  Responsibility for control and maintenance will be carried out by Yale for some period of time and the original working group will continue to develop the model until it is appropriate to be opened to a wider community for further discussion and verification and testing.





















[1] Also distributed as Appendix B of the Report from Toronto Archival Context Meeting, March 2001.