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Archival Materials

November 8th, 2005 · No Comments · Terms & Definitions

Archival materials are information objects that serve as evidence and memory of past events. Archival materials are preserved by archival institutions, organizations or private individuals for long-term access and use. Other common terms include ‘historical documents’, ‘archives’, or ‘records’.

At its most basic level, information is a message that is communicated from a sender to a receiver using some type of recognizable pattern (e.g. sounds, symbols, signs). An information object is an entity with form and structure that conveys a message according to a recognizable pattern (e.g. a document, a movie, a song). Information objects can be stored on a variety of media including paper, video cassette, audio cassette, photographic film, DVD, magnetic hard disk, etc..

Within the context of my research topic, I am interested in archival materials in digital form or ‘digital information objects’ that serve as evidence and memory.

Digital information objects must be understood, managed and preserved at three levels: as physical objects, as logical objects, and as conceptual objects. At the physical level, digital information objects are simply an inscription of signs (e.g. 1’s and 0’s) to a medium (e.g. magnetic disk, magnetic tape, optical disk, etc). At the logical level these physical bitstreams are interpreted by software according to a language or set of rules that give the digital information object a recognizable form and structure (e.g. ASCII text, JPG image). The conceptual object is the entity that has meaning and value in a real-world context (e.g. a webpage, a photograph, a report, etc.).