Contents - Previous - Next


1.4 How scientific is management?

Advances in archival management science
Library administration & new management systems

Advances in archival management science

Report by Dr A.P. KURANTOV

1. Introduction

Once specialized State Archive Services have been established there is a need for archives administration, and the number of countries lacking such services is gradually being reduced to a minimum.

A rational system of archives administration may be introduced most easily in countries with a single State collection: this is the case in Bulgaria, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Romania, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and many other countries.

In the USSR, the decree of 1 June 1918 submitted by the Soviet of People's Commissars 'On the reorganization and centralization of archives' was signed by V. I. Lenin, founder of the Soviet State, and was an act of revolutionary importance which marked the beginning of the socialist system of archives organization. The decree stipulated that all the archive material in the country was to be considered public property. This measure led to the establishment of a new scientific category, the 'State Archive Collection'. The General Archive Directorate, which was responsible for managing the collection, was set up at the same time. A series of laws subsequently confirmed the application of the 1918 decree, particularly the 'Status of the USSR State Archive Collection' of 1958, which reinforced the principles of centralized management and storage and consolidated the links between the State Archives and the institutions responsible for the production of documents.

By virtue of their statutes and functions the State Archives are not only repositories of documents but also scientific research establishments and institutions forming an integral part of the State's administrative services. They are responsible for managing the archives of ministries, institutions, firms and other bodies (generally known as 'current records'). Intercommunication in the functioning of these two types of archives which pursue different aims is the result of the natural continuity between the three stages of document processing: office work, current records and the State Archives.

The ultimate aim of archive services is to carry out retrospective searches as required by the public services, the national economy, culture, science, private individuals and society in general.

To be able to do this archives institutions and current records must perform five major functions: collection, organization based on scientific principles, conservation, classification and the organized use of the documentary information provided by retrospective searches. The performance of these functions taken as a whole and in their various forms makes up the task of managing the State Archive Collection.

Archives consequently conduct three fundamental types of activity, corresponding to the general classification of aspects and types used in scientific work: organization, research and information.

These three aspects of archives administration are closely linked to one another, each of them being based on the other two. They none the less differ and have varying aims, and will consequently bear individual examination as aspects of archives administration.

2. The scientific organization of archives administration

The scientific organization of archival management involves a wide range of issues which include personnel management, planning the development of archives and the archival sciences, regulations, co-ordination and accounting. The study of these problems is closely linked to archival economics, an expanding archival discipline which deals with the organization of work, efficiency, determining the grades at which archive staff are to be recruited, etc. Economic analysis is applied to all the different aspects of archival work designed to make rational use of material and human resources and ensure constant improvements in organizational methods, in order to chance the quality of such work and make it more effective.

The need to tackle the organization and division of archival work in the USSR in a scientific manner led to the compilation of a table in which all the categories of work carried out in State archives are clearly set out. This table facilitates operational studies of the work and serves as a basis for establishing model procedures.

The scientific organization of personnel calls for uniform working conditions and a series of documents setting out the functional distribution tasks, the structures of archival institutions, and the area of activity covered by each post.

The scientific bases of archives administration entail the introduction of new recruitment norms in the State Archives. Soviet archivists are researching this problem, using mathematical statistics (the multiple correlation method). These standards make it possible to determine not only recruitment levels but also the number of archivists required to carry out a given task, and to improve the monitoring methods to be applied to archival work.

Planning and accounting constitute a second group of problems connected with the administration of archives. Archives in the USSR have developed an integrated planning system based on the principles used in national economic planning.

At the basis of this planning system are the five-year development plans for the State archives, reflecting the decisions of the executive bodies, the objectives of economic planning and the need to develop and improve archives.

During the five-year period that has just begun (1976-1980), following lines laid down by the XXVth Congress of the CPSU, special attention is being paid to enhancing the scientific dimension of archives work, as well as its quality and effectiveness, to storage conditions and to the rational use of material, financial and human resources. The five-year plan for archives development is made up of several sections defining the practical tasks allocated to different projects.

The scientific research work carried out by VNIIDAD is based on annual and five-year plans. There are other plans covering co-ordination of the approach to major problems (in which the other institutions participate), the work of the Academic Council and its sections and the application of research findings. All these plans are linked and constitute a single organizatory and planning system governing the development of scientific research.

Forecasts of scientific growth are an important factor in planning and management. An outline of the forecasts concerning the basic problems in documents management archival science and archeography up until 1990 is made available to Societ archivists.

The co-ordination of scientific research has become extremely important in recent years. This is due to the complexity of the most advanced scientific work, which requires the attention of several institutions covering different areas. The Commission for the Co-ordination of Scientific and Systematic Research of the USSR General Archive Directorate has a large part to play in this process. The Commission revises the plans co-ordinating VNIIDAD's research work and that of other archival institutions, establishing the requisite contacts with the different institutions and the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. It monitors the progress of research into complex problems and assesses its findings. Co-ordination is the responsibility of VNIIDAD, which is the leading institution and prepares the methodological and organizational documents for the co-ordinating bodies (specifications, research schedules, work schedules), organizes conferences with their representatives, examines their work, etc. These are complex tasks with a high labour coefficient, and they are taking up more and more of the time of those concerned.

The plans for the implementation of completed research work provide for the establishment of methodological norms to be applied for experimental purposes, as well as the dissemination of the findings; talks given by specialists, conferences, seminars, the preparation of exhibitions and of articles, etc.

The accounting system is complemented by the planning structure. The book-keeping for each piece of scientific research work is done separately, according to a system whose structure, order and lay-out are the subject of a special State norm.

In recent times, a trend towards the constitution of scientific research groups and committees to encourage the effective use of labour in archival institutions has been observed in State archives (Poland, Croatia, Romania, Czechoslovakia). Scientific organizations of this kind mainly study the problems connected with the internal organization of archives, the development and correct grouping of the collections, and the standardization of documents dealing with archives administration.

3. The scientific bases of archives administration

Each of the branches of archival science and records management is linked in one way or another to archives administration. This link is determined above all by the nature of the scientific research, whose considerable diversity may be reduced to three essential categories: theoretical or basic research, applied research, methodological research. In the USSR, this classification is strengthened by the 'Basic guidelines for the organization of scientific research in archival institutions' (Moscow 1975).

The aim of theoretical research is to develop scientific theories and promote the acquisition of systematic knowledge concerning specific scientific problems. They contribute to the detailed development of research work.

The purpose of applied research is to use theoretical knowledge in order to solve specific practical problems.

Methodological research is the result of archivists' scientific activities, which are reflected in general and consultative methodological handbooks and in mandatory standard-setting texts.

(a) The importance of scientific archival research into archives administration

Among the effects of scientific archival research on archives administration mention should be made in the first place of the effect of such research on the most important function of archives: collection and selection. This function is supported by special theoretical research and methods of assessing the usefulness of documents.

These problems attract the attention of archivists the world over. Many countries are organizing research and devising a methodology for a low-cost system of selecting and preserving genuinely useful documents, which can be applied to a constantly expanding flow of documents. It was precisely this aspect of studies that directly influenced archives administration in several countries.

The methods used to evaluate documents are based on theoretical concepts of the informative role of documents. Generally, the role and importance of an institution in a hierarchical government system is a crucial factor when determining the content and historical value of the documents it has produced. In the USSR, documents are assessed on the basis of this principle, after drawing up a list of institutions to be taken into account. The process of selecting the institutions is carried out by means of 'sample lists', prepared for this purpose. These lists classify the institutions in groups. They are standard-setting documents which directly influence the workings of the process whereby historic documents are incorporated in archives.

The need to select the documents that are stored in archives with care because of the increasing quantities of public records has obliged archivists in several countries to formulate basic evaluation criteria. There is a noticeably tendency to make these more detailed and to have recourse to other disciplines linked to archives science. Research of this kind is connected to applied research in archives science and thanks to specific methodological texts, it has an influence on archives administration.

The need to reduce the number of documents to the minimum while maximizing their information content has led archivists in several countries to study the phenomena of the absorption and reproduction of information in contemporary documentary systems. Research is being carried out in this field in Great Britain, the USSR, the U.S.A., France, Sweden and other countries.

In the USSR documents are evaluated by the Committee of Experts of the State Archives and by institutions, organizations and business concerns. The archive services of the federated and autonomous republics and their archives departments also have committees of experts which evaluate documents. These committees are the various links in the administrative chain that controls the selection of documents. The supreme authority, the Central Committee for Expert Inspection (TsEPK) of the General Dictorate of State Archives of the USSR, is an organizational and methodological centre which directs the methodological side of document assessment at the level of the State Archive Services: it draws up model lists of documents and approves the draft lists of documents intended for the different departments.

Research and management functions are both represented on this committee, as is demonstrated by the participation of VNIIDAD representatives in the relevant studies. Not only do the findings of scientific research work influence organization and practical content, but they are themselves influenced by the administrative bodies which, by handing over their records to the State Archives, at the same time determine the direction and the intensity of this research. The TsEPK is thus an administrative mechanism governing the interaction between theory and practice in the expansion of archives. Mention should also be made of the effect of contemporary research into the reference system on archives administration. These studies are intended to facilitate the retrieval of data in retrospective searches.

The usefulness of the differential method of describing documents on the basis of their information category should be stressed. From the standpoint of archives administration, this type of classification facilitates the planning of descriptive work, reduces the time and labour required to carry it out and provides a more detailed description of the collections which contain the most information. The application of the differential method means that the acquisition of documents by archives is directly determined by their quality as sources of information (diversity of documentary data, historical importance, state of preservation, frequency of use).

In the majority of countries the need for serious scientific research into the use of archives has also been recognized. Efforts have been made to define the problem of the use of documents (Canada), to undertake a systematic examination of users' information requirements by analysing their requests (Archives of the Federal Republic of Germany), to establish links between the ways in which the documents are used and the selection of the corresponding personnel (Great Britain), to include archival information in the network of scientific/historical information and documentation (German Democratic Republic), to create a stock of data which will subsequently be translated into machine language (Poland), to develop objective criteria for assessing the effectiveness of research from the standpoint of the tasks of 'social management', the development of the national economy, science, etc. (USSR).

(b) The importance of research into records management for archives administration

From the standpoint of archives administration, the main significance of research into the creation of records is that its findings contribute to one of its most important functions of archives, i.e. the acquisition of highly informative documents.

Scientific and technical progress, together with the increase in documents on the subject and the emergence of new types of media (audiovisual, computerized and others) call for a new, universally valid approach to the problems raised by the creation of records. In most countries, archivists have joined forces with management specialists (the German Democratic Republic, Denmark, Canada, France, Great Britain, Poland, USSR, U.S.A., Sweden and others).

In the USSR studies of the procedures and principles of the handling of records in administrative systems have made it possible to create the nucleus of a new scientific discipline, the science of records management, which is an application of the science of 'social management', and is connected with archival science and contemporary studies on information.

It should be noted that a broader definition of records management has been adopted. It now covers all handling of documents in administrative systems. This is the theoretical basis on which Soviet archivists, together with legal and other specialists have built up a unified records conservation system (EGSD).

This system is a code of rules, recommendations and norms for the conservation of records at every administrative level. It has been designed as a uniform method that will have an influence on management procedures as it guides, regulates and standardizes the handling of records from their creation until the time comes to store them in archives.

The establishment of this system led Soviet archivists to give closer attention to the standardization of administrative documents. As a result, two norms concerning administrative documents have been issued: 'System of documents on organization and administration. Basic principles' and 'System of documents on organization and administrations. Model'. These certain specifications regarding the drafting and typing of documents and the optimum layout for each component of the document. A number of documents are thus based on a single model matrix and their quality as sources of management information is improved.

The idea underlying the unified system and the norms for administrative documents is the idea that at the very conception of a document, even before its creation, its value as a source of information for the future must be taken into account. The application of these norms constitutes a link between records management and the State Archive Collection. The latter thus benefits from improvements in records management.

The establishment of the unified system and of norms for administrative documents gave an impetus to the development of the administrative sciences and made it possible to consider a unified system for documents on organization and administration which could be used both in automated administrative systems and in traditional ones. A unified system of this kind (USORD) is currently being developed by VNIIDAD in conjunction with several other archival institutions in the USSR; it will give rise to a complex network of documents designed to carry out one of the basic administrative functions, i.e. the organization of administrative systems and processes.

Similar research is under way in other countries. For instance, the Central Archive Directorate and the State Archives in Bulgaria are also setting up a unified system for the conservation of the State Archives (EGSD).

(c) The importance of research in the natural sciences for archives administration

An important feature of contemporary archives administration is the wide-ranging application of discoveries in the natural sciences and of advanced techniques. The role of research in this field is constantly expanding, so that theoretical and applied research serves as a base for the preparation of norms and manuals designed to improve conservation processes and rationalize reprographic and reduction techniques.

Several countries are planning to develop their existing scientific research centres and establish new ones. Czechoslovakia is building a centre for applied research in document conservation and restoration, which will use the most up-to-date techniques. In the USSR, this type of research is carried out by VNIIDAD, which is responsible for the methodological supervision of the network of microfilm and restoration laboratories working for the State Archives. The Croatian State Archives in Zagreb are planning an archival research centre, in which research in the natural sciences will play a clearly defined part. Two further laboratories dealing with documents hygiene, conservation and restoration have been built in Bulgaria, in addition to the one already in existence. In Poland, the specialized laboratories of the conservation service of the General Directorate of State Archives play an important role. Other countries are also well advanced in this field.

Large-scale research projects generally require close co-operation with other experts who are engaged, to a greater or lesser extent, in research on paper, ink, film, their environment, biological agents which can damage documents and even the dangers inherent in documents themselves. Archivists in the United States work together with scientists specializing in restoration and reprography. They apply the findings of their work on the development of artificial aging methods, the use of laser beams, refrigeration techniques atomization with non-acid aerosols, etc.

In the USSR, the VNIIDAD laboratories work together with institutions of the Academy of Sciences and the major State libraries.

A number of countries have research programmes whose aim is to create durable media (paper, film, ink) and use them to solve the problem of document conservation (Great Britain, GDR, USSR and others).

The laboratory of W.D. Barrow (U.S.A) has studied the agents which hinder book and documents conservation, and ways of producing long-lasting paper.

In recent years, there has been a good deal of interest in synthetic paper (U.S.A and Japan). According to the information published on the subject, this type of paper is extremely stable and long-lasting but there is a problem of electrostatics to be dealt with. Great Britain has produced a type of paper called 'archival quality paper' which is guaranteed to last 500 years. The USSR has produced an experimental batch of long-lasting paper with a life of approximately 850 years. Research is being carried out into paper made from cotton fibres which would have a life of 1,000 years and could be used for particularly important documents.

However, the physical conservation of the paper does not as yet guarantee the conservation of the text. It has in fact been shown that ink often actively contributes to the destruction of a text. The interrelationship between the medium and the text thus had to be investigated with reference to conservation conditions, as did the parameters of the 'medium/text' system.

Scientific research and practical measures designed to combat infectious biogenic substances, particularly fungi, have also been given a fresh impetus. The objective is to protect not only paper documents but also films and photographic plates. The danger of placing infected documents in storage is particularly great in a tropical climate. Recent discoveries in the field of antisepsis open up major possibilities for the treatment of archival documents.

As a result of research into existing methods of mass disinfection the use of formation has gradually given way to more effective treatment with gas, using ethyl oxide, methyl bromide and other chemical products. Archivists in many countries also consider the physical method, which consists of disinfecting documents with high frequency currents, to be promising. Several countries (Bulgaria, France, Czechoslovakia) use ionizing radiation for this purpose.

Studies concerning the properties of computerized, audiovisual and other documents are a particular focus of interest at the moment. So far little is known about their durability or optimum storage conditions. The problem of the durability of the microfilms used in automatic data reduction systems (COM) is one of great urgency. The archives of several countries possess large collections of films and microfilms, and methodological guidelines for their storage and conservation are needed.

It is often necessary to reproduce the colours of documents by photographing them. It is thus essential to create new types of photographic media for the purposes of microfilming or photography, as well as optimum conditions for the chemical treatment and conservation of these materials.

The financing of means of observing certain ecological parameters should be considered in the light of the cost of protective treatment on the one hand and of the equipment of restoration laboratories on the other. Economic criteria must outweigh purely technical considerations, particularly as regards the choice of methods. Archivists require detailed information on new techniques in order to choose the most suitable materials. Several countries, particularly the USSR, have begun to draw up selection and assessment criteria for new materials intended for the State Archives and to prepare summary catalogues of these materials adapted to the specific aims of archives.

The question of what would constitute the 'ideal archives' has been discussed for some time now. Archivists in most countries associate this concept with the archives administration of the future. In countries where archives are considered to be part of the State's information potential the '"ideal archives' are seen in the context of a task to be carried out by archives either following their integration in a single national information system (Japan), or as a result of greater interdependence between the networks of archives, libraries and documentation centres (Great Britain) or finally, following the constitution of a computer 'network covering the whole country' (U.S.A.).

Archivists in the German Democratic Republic associate the definition of the 'ideal archives' with a definition of the role and functions of State Archives in a developed socialist society. In Czechoslovakia, the idea of 'ideal archives' is bound up with the project for the construction of an archives complex in Prague, of State Archives in Bratislava and of new archive buildings in other towns which would use the most up-to-date administrative techniques and information systems.

Archivists in the Federal Republic of Germany have outlined a model which the Federal Archives should, in their view, comply with by 1980. The Archives are considered as a cultural centre that stores a minimum of documents with the maximum content in a more compact form, and uses the latest techniques to satisfy the information requirements of the whole of society.

Soviet archivists believe that the traditional methods of archival storage call for improvements that go beyond changes in technological procedures and in the technical equipment used in archives. The research undertaken in this field aims to develop technological criteria for each technical operation. The specifications of projects relating to 'ideal archives' are being prepared, and studies are being carried out on recommendations concerning the equipment in archival repositories.

Great importance is now attached to the updating of technical and standard-setting documentation applicable to the construction and equipment of archives, together with the standardization of architectural design. Most countries consider it reasonable when building archives to take into account the physical constitution of the documents that are to be stored in them (paper, film, magnetic tapes) and to follow standardized plans. In Great Britain, the U.S.A., France and the Federal Republic of Germany, it is felt that documents that have not been sorted, and most of which will be destroyed after a short space of time, need only be preserved in intermediate repositories, which are built and equipped at a low cost and are clearly distinguished from archives proper. Structures of this kind already exist in a number of countries. Their main advantage is the relatively low cost of storing the documents, combined with the possibility of making maximum use of the space.

As for models of the ideal archives building and their construction, Soviet archivists take as their basis the fact that new trends in the field of archives point above all to the mechanization and complete automation of technological procedures such as data processing and collection, the conservation and use of documents, and to the introduction of new types of data carriers that make it possible to reduce archives to a very small scale and automate them.

4. The use of the computers and of microfilm in archives administration

One of the main tasks of archives administration is the establishment of automated systems which use computers to store, process and retrieve information.

In a number of countries, this has become a matter of urgency due to the rapid increase in the amount of documents that are preserved and recent advances in computer technology. The national archives in the United States are one of the main archival centres for the use of computers. There the automatic SPINDEX indexing system is used to process staff files and includes name, post, date and the document reference number.

The Public Record Office in London uses computers to store and produce data describing its collections and is thus able to publish directories using a photo-typesetter. A topographical index arranged by codes of groups of documents, by classes and by location is issued twice yearly for internal use.

The East Sussex County Record Office uses computers for cataloguing and records management (ARCAIC) and PARC systems. The Archives of the Federal

Republic of Germany are using a STAIRS system to retrieve data from stored documents and to compile indexes of names of persons, places and subjects. The Italian State Archives use an automatic indexing system to retrieve and produce summaries of notarial documents. The Canadian Federal Archives use the document indexing and monitoring system RECODEX, which was created with the assistance of the State bureau of computer services. The ALPHATEXT system has made it possible to draw up a standardized description of private archive collections (manuscripts) preserved in the Canadian Archives (30,000 items). The Belgian State Archives have introduced automatic cataloguing for the science library and printed records. Similar projects are under way in Austria, France, Japan, and in several other countries.

The Member States of COMECON are investigating the possibility of developing AIRS for archival purposes. These countries can draw on the experience of very large automated information centres. For instance, the Romanian State Archives have adopted the SARIAS descriptive system using a third generation computer. The system which uses an open thesaurus, operates on a two-pass principle, and is linked to a summary and a search facility recorded on magnetic tape. Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic are using automated information systems and have computerized the whole sequence of document storage, retrieval and production (PENTAKA system in the GDR).

The USSR is working on the implementation of an automated scientific and technical information system which covers the documents of all the State Archives in the country. An automated scientific and technical documentation subsystem for the State Archives network will be established within this system. Document storage and processing will be carried out by means of a three-pass circuit designed to carry out the following functions:

The Central Catalogue AIRS (AIRS/CFC) will constitute a further part of the general automated documentary information system of the USSR State Archives. Its purpose is to store information on all the archive documents in the USSR, including their title, location, the amount of room they occupy in the storage units and several other factors.

The use of magnetic tape cassettes that are identical to the compact cassettes used in portable recordings opens up a wide range of possibilities. These cassettes are easy to store, transport or send by post. A mini-computer cassette can store from one to two million alphanumeric characters. Most minicomputers also have visual display units for both text and graphics.

In the major modern archive repositories effective document retrieval is based on the use of microfilms as information carriers. Microfilming reduces storage space and computer time in a rational way, and less paper is thus required.

For some time now there has been a clear tendency to use computerized data production systems employing a microphotographic medium (roll microfilm and microfiches), instead of separate microfilm units.

The AIRS/CFC is classed as a two-pass factographic documentary system. A variant of this system will use an information retrieval language of the descriptor-classification type with a position-based grammar. The two systems will be used together to assess collections of scientific and technical documents.

The development of programming systems for third generation computers has made it possible to set up effective integrated information systems bringing together the documentary collections of several archives. The exchange of data between archival centres can then be organized by location or communication networks.

AIRS specialists are showing great interest in the use of low-power computers ('mini-computers'), designed to handle relatively small numbers of documents. The mini-computers used in a number of local AIRS have already demonstrated their cost effectiveness chiefly on account of their lower price - and given satisfactory performances. Should the number of documents increase or more intensive use be made of the machines, the system's reserve of power may be supplemented by replacing certain components without incurring major expense. This adds to the system's flexibility.

The advantages of microfilm as an information carrier and of minicomputers as a means of processing this information have led to the establishment of relatively cheap specialized mini-systems for the storage, retrieval and production of copies of microfilms or of graphic documents. The application of these systems is, however, limited with regard to the number of documents that may be stored, the length of the index, the research algorithm, etc. The Miracod (Kodak, U.S.A.) Odelcod Filmdata Bank (De Oude Delft, the Netherlands) and Cezam (Cifal and Sait Data System, France) mini-systems have established their reputation. The Miracod system is used by the Canadian State Archives.

The retrieval of information on magnetic tape or in electronic memory banks direct to the user's console will become increasingly common. The automatic indexing of documents, real-time dialogue, and the establishment of a link between the computer and the communication system would make possible further significant improvements in the effectivenss of AIRS.

5. The need to develop a scientific archival terminology

Efficient archives administration is conditional upon the development of a special instrument of communication: scientific archival terminology. This will involve improvements in the definition of traditional concepts and the interpretation and assimilation of new terms adapted to the special nature of archival work.

The influence of terminology on administrative objectives is by its very nature informative; only its forms differ. In any case, a unified and unambiguous terminology encourages sound decision-making and makes it easier to carry decisions out. In addition, it makes scientific literature and informative publications less arduous reading.

The publication in the USSR of the 'Concise dictionary of archival terms' (1968) and the 'Concise dictionary of types and varieties of documents' (1974), which contain a considerable number of terms, marked a great stride forward in the unification of the theoretical aspects of archival science and records management in this country.

Several countries have established norms for archival terminology. In Sweden, this is done by the National Standardization Committee, on which sit representatives of the State Archives. In the USSR, a 1971 terminological bulletin contains 49 basic terms relating to the conservation of documents and archives whose use is compulsory in standard-setting documents and in specialized, technical and reference works.

Terminological research has repercussions beyond national frontiers, contributing to understanding among specialists on an international level and helping to surmount terminological barriers. Archivists in Poland, the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria are revising their terminological dictionaries and the latest editions already contain new terms.

The COMECON countries are at present engaged in terminological research which highlights the need for a common terminology that can only be achieved on the basis of a comparative analysis of the definitions used in the different national archival terminologies.

The compilation of an international dictionary under the aegis of the International Council on Archives, which would include archival terms in the Council's different working languages, would appear to be highly desirable, if not essential, for the future of archival science throughout the world.


Contents - Previous - Next