Archival Word of the Week: Access Points

FingerpostAlso known as index terms or keywords. We make sure that each archival description on the Archives Hub includes at least one of these. Access points help our search engine, especially our Subject Finder, which does very clever things with them. And each access point on the Hub is a link to other descriptions with the same access point. An index term points you to where you want to go. When you look at the access points for a particular description, you usually see indicating more descriptions of potential interest. So go on, try following an access point, see where it takes you.

See also: Guided Tour: Access Points.
See also: For Archivists: Creating access points.

Archival Word of the Week: Calendar

Calendar with picture of terrierNot to be confused with calendar. Archivists use this word for an inventory of items in a collection listed chronologically. The items themselves haven’t been re-arranged this way – a calendar is a description, or an interpretation, presenting another way of looking at the collection. But when calendars in either sense appear on the Archives Hub, they themselves tend to be items within an archival collection. Collections on the Hub are described with a hierarchical organisation, another interpretation but one providing more contextual information, and more likely to reflect the organisation of the materials.

Illustration: terrier inspired by the Underdog Show.

Archival Word of the Week: Common-place book

'Twas fate,' they'll say, 'a wayward fate/Your web of discord wove;/And while your tyrants join'd in hate,/You never join'd in loveBit of a misnomer this one: common-place books are not printed books, they’re manuscript, and they are not commonplace – each one is unique.That’s why so many appear in archival collections described on the Archives Hub.

From the 16th century and on into the 19th, many people preserved snippets of conversation and interesting excerpts from books, by writing them down in a notebook, collected in a ‘common place’ for future reference.

Perhaps this blog sometimes resembles a digital common-place book, especially in the way the ‘labels’ organise our posts by theme, much as commonplace books were often organised.

Illustration: excerpt from "Weep On, Weep On" by Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852).
See also: Collections of the Month: Love letters.

Archival Word of the Week: Ephemera

Tonite onlyGeneric name for published documents which are designed to perform a specific task at a specific time, and expected to be forgotten or thrown away after use – although they might be retained for a striking design or as a souvenir of an event. Ephemera include posters, tickets, and leaflets. Does this blog count as ephemera? I don’t know.

These temporary documents tend to be littered with ‘linguistic shifters’ – relative terms such as ‘tonight’ or ‘here’ – which always require contextual information to make any sense at all.

Link: ephemera
Link: Carried away

Archival Word of the Week: Chit

Chit saying 'This person is entitled to one Hot-Cross bun'Noun, Anglo-Indian. Alright, it’s not an archival term, but it might be useful for certain kinds of memo. Perhaps it just entered the lexicon at the wrong time! I hope this handy word won’t be killed off by American English.

All the vocabulary in this weekly feature so far has been of Latin or French origin. A variety of Latin was used by officials and academics into the 18th century, and of course archival theory developed in France. That’s not to mention those Anglo-Normans!

See also: Cor, blust, squit!

Archival Word of the Week: Provenance

Rugby playerEvery archival collection is unique, and the individual documents within them are likely to be unique as well, so it’s essential to establish where a collection has come from, and what has happened to it over time – so that researchers can then judge the quality of the material, and place it within a context where it can be interpreted. Descriptions on the Archives Hub provide details of provenance under the headings ‘Custodial History’ and ‘Immediate Source of Acquistion’. Archivists and researchers also use the phrase ‘chain of custody’ or ‘chain of ownership’ when discussing provenance.

Archival Word of the Week: fl.

Flower bedAbbreviation for the word ‘flourit’, ‘fluorit’, or ‘floruit’. The Oxford English Dictionary says ‘floruit‘, but you will probably see these variations, even on the Archives Hub, very sorry about that. Pronounced ‘floor-yuh-it’. When an index term for a proper name requires a date, but if neither the birth nor end date is known to the cataloguer, then the archival material being described can provide a date when its creator ‘flourished’, in the sense that they were obviously active, rather than at the peak of their career or somesuch. Illustration with apologies to Sonny Carter.

Archival Word of the Week: Fonds

Fonz in store-roomA noun, singular, most often pronounced ‘fonz’. This generally just means an archival collection, so when an archival description is at ‘fonds-level’, it’s an overview without details of each individual item. Some archivists simply use the term ‘collection’, or treat the terms as interchangeable. But others reserve ‘fonds’ to distinguish a collection generated by a person, family, or organisation, as opposed to an ‘artificial’ collection, which has been gathered and arranged by a collector or a repository.

Sadly, the term ‘fonds’ does not seem to appear in this sense in the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED does include ‘fond’, meaning "source of supply, stock, store", which is apt in the sense of the archival collection providing a fund of data, which we can elaborate with metadata. But does anyone want to suggest some published examples to the OED for the archival use of the word? And can anybody guide us with the pronunciation?