Archival Science

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 85–116 | Cite as

‘Nothing is the same as something else’: significant properties and notions of identity and originality

Original paper

Abstract

What does it mean to claim that one record, one archival object, is identical to another? Questions of identity (or ‘sameness’) often arise in the fields of digital preservation, imaging, transcription and editing. Experts in these fields sometimes assert that success in their mission depends on the ability to define the ‘significant’ or ‘essential’ properties of records and that, if these can be protected, the identity of records will be preserved across episodes of migration or conversion. However, the determination of ‘significant properties’ is no less problematical than the debate about notions of ‘value’ in appraisal theory, not least because different user communities will bring different perceptions of what constitutes significance. The sameness of discrete entities, the concept of significance and the methods by which sameness or significance might be assessed are all open to dispute; opinions will inevitably depend on the contexts in which judgements are made. Originality is also a frequently contested notion, especially in the digital world, but must not be dismissed as meaningless. The copies that emerge from acts of migration, conversion or transcription are neither incontrovertibly identical to their originals nor carriers of properties that are objectively significant.

Keywords

Significant properties Identity Originality Value 

References

Web addresses were accessed in December 2009

  1. Allison A, Currall J, Moss M, Stuart S (2005) Digital identity matters. J Am Soc Inf Sci Technol 56:364–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anglo-American Historical Committee (1923) Report on editing historical documents. Bull Inst Hist Res 1:6–25Google Scholar
  3. Armitage D (2007) The declaration of independence. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Attfield R (1987) A theory of value and obligation. Croom Helm, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Austin JL (1962) How to do things with words. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Baker N (2001) Double fold: libraries and the assault on paper. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Bastian JA, Alexander B (eds) (2009) Community archives: the shaping of memory. Facet, LondonGoogle Scholar
  8. Beamer L (2003) Directness in Chinese business correspondence of the nineteenth century. J Bus Tech Commun 17:201–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bearman D (1996) Item level control and electronic recordkeeping. Arch Mus Inform 10:195–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bearman D, Sochats K (1996) Metadata requirements for evidence. Available at http://web.archive.org/web/19970707063459/http://www.lis.pitt.edu/~nhprc/BACartic.html
  11. Benjamin W (1970) The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. In: Arendt H (ed) Illuminations. Jonathan Cape, London, pp 219–253Google Scholar
  12. Booms H (1987) Society and the formation of a documentary heritage: issues in the appraisal of archival sources. Archivaria 24:69–107Google Scholar
  13. Bowker GC, Star SL (1999) Sorting things out: classification and its consequences. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. Brooks PC (1940) The selection of records for preservation. Am Arch 3:221–234Google Scholar
  15. Brown A (2007) Developing practical approaches to active preservation. Int J Digit Curation 2(1):3–11Google Scholar
  16. Brown JS, Duguid P (2000) The social life of information. Harvard Business School Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  17. Caplan P (2009) Understanding PREMIS. Available at http://www.loc.gov/standards/premis/understanding-premis.pdf
  18. Chabin M-A (1999) Je pense donc j’archive. L’Harmattan, ParisGoogle Scholar
  19. Chaplais P (2003) English diplomatic practice in the middle ages. Hambledon and London, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Chapman S, Kenney AR (1996) ‘Digital conversion of research library materials’. D-Lib Mag 2(10). Available at http://www.dlib.org/dlib/october96/cornell/10chapman.html
  21. Cherry J, Duff W (1999) Improving access to early Canadiana. Available at http://web.archive.org/web/20041129085829/http://www.fis.utoronto.ca/research/programs/digital/final+report.pdf
  22. Collins J, Collins S, Garnaut C (2007) Behind the image: assessing architectural drawings as cultural records. Arch Manuscr 35(2):86–107Google Scholar
  23. Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (2002) Reference model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS). Available at http://public.ccsds.org/publications/archive/650x0b1.pdf
  24. Cook T (1992) Mind over matter: towards a new theory of archival appraisal. In: Craig BL (ed) The archival imagination: essays in honour of Hugh A. Taylor. Association of Canadian Archivists, Ottawa, pp 38–70Google Scholar
  25. Cook T (1993) The concept of the archival fonds in the post-custodial era. Archivaria 35:24–37Google Scholar
  26. Cook T (2000) Beyond the screen: the records continuum and archival cultural heritage. Available at http://www.archivists.org.au/files/Conference_Papers/2000/terrycook.pdf
  27. Cunningham A, Oswald R (2005) Some functions are more equal than others: the development of a macroappraisal strategy for the National Archives of Australia. Arch Sci 5:163–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Currall J, Johnson CE, Johnston P, Moss MS, Richmond LR (2002) No going back? The final report of the Effective Records Management Project. Available at http://www.gla.ac.uk/InfoStrat/ERM/Docs/ERM-Appendix4.pdf
  29. Dappert A, Farquhar A (2009) Significance is in the eye of the stakeholder. Available at http://www.planets-project.eu/docs/papers/Dappert_SignificantCharacteristics_ECDL2009.pdf
  30. Dekeyser H (2006) Authenticity in bits and bytes. In: Neef S, Van Dijck J, Ketelaar E (eds) Sign here: handwriting in the age of new media. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, pp 76–90Google Scholar
  31. DeRose SJ, Durand DG, Mylonas E, Renear AH (1990) What is text, really? J Comput High Educ 1(2):3–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Derrida J (2005) Paper machine. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  33. de Saussure F (1973) Cours de linguistique générale. Payot, ParisGoogle Scholar
  34. Digital Preservation Testbed (2003) Emulation: context and current status. Available at http://www.digitaleduurzaamheid.nl/bibliotheek/docs/White_paper_emulation_UK.pdf
  35. Driscoll MJ (2006) Levels of transcription. In: Burnard L, O’Brien O’Keeffe K, Unsworth J (eds) Electronic textual editing. Modern Language Association of America, New York, pp 254–261Google Scholar
  36. Duff W, Cherry J (2000) Use of historical documents in a digital world: comparisons with original materials and microfiche. Inf Res 6(1). Available at http://informationr.net/ir/6-1/paper86.html
  37. Duff W, Craig B, Cherry J (2004) Finding and using archival resources: a cross-Canada survey of historians studying Canadian history. Archivaria 58:51–80Google Scholar
  38. Duranti L (1997) The archival bond. Arch Mus Inform 11:213–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Duranti L (1998) Diplomatics: new uses for an old science. Scarecrow Press, LanhamGoogle Scholar
  40. Duranti L (1999) Concepts and principles for the management of electronic records, or records management theory is archival diplomatics. Rec Manag J 9:153–175Google Scholar
  41. Duranti L (2002) The concept of electronic record. In: Duranti L, Eastwood T, MacNeil H (eds) Preservation of the integrity of electronic records. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 9–22Google Scholar
  42. Duranti L (ed) (2005) The long-term preservation of authentic electronic records: findings of the InterPARES Project. Archilab, San MiniatoGoogle Scholar
  43. Duranti L, MacNeil H (1996) The protection of the integrity of electronic records: an overview of the UBC-MAS research project. Archivaria 42:46–67Google Scholar
  44. Duranti L, Thibodeau K (2006) The concept of record in interactive, experiential and dynamic environments: the view of InterPARES. Arch Sci 6:13–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Duranti L, Preston R (eds) (2008) International research on permanent authentic records in electronic systems (InterPARES 2): experimental, interactive and dynamic records. Coop Libraria Editrice Università di Padova, PaduaGoogle Scholar
  46. Eastwood T (1992) Towards a social theory of appraisal. In: Craig BL (ed) The archival imagination: essays in honour of Hugh A. Taylor. Association of Canadian Archivists, Ottawa, pp 71–89Google Scholar
  47. Eastwood T (1993) How goes it with appraisal? Archivaria 36:111–121Google Scholar
  48. Etherton J (2006) The role of archives in the perception of self. J Soc Arch 27:227–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ferreira M, Baptista AA, Ramalho JC (2007) An intelligent decision support system for digital preservation. Int J Digit Libr 6:295–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Fowler GH (1939) The care of county muniments, 3rd edn. County Councils Association, LondonGoogle Scholar
  51. Giddens A (1979) Central problems in social theory. Macmillan, BasingstokeGoogle Scholar
  52. Gilliland-Swetland A, Eppard PB (2000) Preserving the authenticity of contingent digital objects: the Interpares Project. D-Lib Mag 6(7-8). Available at http://www.dlib.org/dlib/july00/eppard/07eppard.html
  53. Goldman AH (2008) The case against objective values. Ethical Theory Moral Pract 11:507–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Goodman N (1976) Languages of art, 2nd edn. Hackett Publishing Co., IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  55. Greene MA (2002) The power of meaning: the archival mission in the postmodern age. Am Arch 65:42–55Google Scholar
  56. Guttenbrunner M (2008) Preserving interactive content. Available at http://publik.tuwien.ac.at/files/PubDat_172294.pdf
  57. Hammond A, DelVecchio D (1995) General textual introduction. In: Gunby D, Carnegie D, Hammond A (eds) The works of John Webster, vol 1. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  58. Handlin O et al (1954) Harvard guide to American history. Belknap Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  59. Hart EL, Smith MN (eds) (1998) Open me carefully: Emily Dickinson’s intimate letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson. Paris Press, AshfieldGoogle Scholar
  60. Harris V (2001) Law, evidence and electronic records: a strategic perspective from the global periphery. Comma 1/2:29–44Google Scholar
  61. Harvey PDA (2001) Editing historical records. British Library, LondonGoogle Scholar
  62. Harvey R (2005) Preserving digital materials. K G Saur, MunichCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Heath C, Luff P (2000) Technology in action. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Hedstrom M, Lee CA (2002) Significant properties of digital objects: definitions, applications, implications. In: Proceedings of the DLM-forum 2002, Barcelona, 6–8 May 2002. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, pp 218–223Google Scholar
  65. Heslop H, Davis S, Wilson A (2002) An approach to the preservation of digital records. Available at http://www.naa.gov.au/Images/An-approach-Green-Paper_tcm2-888.pdf
  66. Hockx-Yu H, Knight G (2008) What to preserve? Significant properties of digital objects. Int J Digit Curation 3(1):142–154Google Scholar
  67. Hofman H (2004) Can bits and bytes be authentic? Preserving the authenticity of digital objects. Arch Comput 14(3):85–98Google Scholar
  68. Huitfeldt C, Sperberg-McQueen CM (2008) What is transcription? Lit Linguist Comput 23:295–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Hunnisett RF (1977) Editing records for publication. British Records Association, LondonGoogle Scholar
  70. Hunter M (2007) Editing early modern texts. Palgrave Macmillan, BasingstokeGoogle Scholar
  71. Iacovino L (2001) Common ground, different traditions: an Australian perspective on Italian diplomatics, archival science and business records. Arch Manuscr 29(1):118–138Google Scholar
  72. InSPECT (2008) Framework for the definition of significant properties. Available at http://www.significantproperties.org.uk/documents/wp33-propertiesreport-v1.pdf
  73. InSPECT (2009) Final report. Available at http://www.significantproperties.org.uk/inspect-finalreport.pdf
  74. JISC (2008) The significant properties of digital objects. Available at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/preservation/2008sigprops.aspx
  75. Kenney AR, Chapman S (1996) Digital imaging for libraries and archives. Cornell University Library, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  76. Kichuk D (2007) Metamorphosis: remediation in Early English Books Online. Lit Linguist Comput 22:291–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Knight G, Pennock M (2009) Data without meaning: establishing the significant properties of digital research. Int J Digit Curation 4(1):159–174Google Scholar
  78. Levinson J (1990) Music, art, and metaphysics. Cornell University Press, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  79. Levy DM (2000) Where’s Waldo? Reflections on copies and authenticity in a digital environment. In: Council on Library and Information Resources, Authenticity in a digital environment. Council on Library and Information Resources, Washington, pp 24–31Google Scholar
  80. Lloyd A (2007) Guarding against collective amnesia? Making significance problematic: an exploration of issues. Libr Trends 56:53–65Google Scholar
  81. MacNeil H (2000) Providing grounds for trust: developing conceptual requirements for the long-term preservation of authentic electronic records. Archivaria 50:52–78Google Scholar
  82. MacNeil H (2002) Providing grounds for trust II: the findings of the authenticity taskforce of InterPARES. Archivaria 54:24–58Google Scholar
  83. MacNeil H (2008) Archivalterity: rethinking original order. Archivaria 66:1–24Google Scholar
  84. MacNeil H, Mak B (2007) Constructions of authenticity. Libr Trends 56:26–52Google Scholar
  85. Maxwell JC (ed) (1966) W. W. Greg: collected papers. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  86. Mitchell D (2005) Measures of possibility: Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts. University of Massachusetts Press, AmherstGoogle Scholar
  87. National Archives [USA] (1982) Intrinsic value in archival material. Available at http://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/archives-resources/archival-material-intrinsic-value.html
  88. National Council on Archives [UK] (2003) Standard for access to archives. Available at www.nca.org.uk/materials/access_standard.pdf
  89. Nissen HJ, Damerow P, Englund RK (1993) Archaic bookkeeping. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  90. Norton MC (1939) Archives and libraries. Ill Libr 21(March): 11–13. Reprinted in: Mitchell T W (ed.) (1975) Norton on archives: the writings of Margaret Cross Norton on archival and records management. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, pp 86–89Google Scholar
  91. O’Toole JM (1993) The symbolic significance of archives. Am Arch 56:234–255Google Scholar
  92. O’Toole JM (1994) On the idea of uniqueness. Am Arch 57:632–658Google Scholar
  93. O’Toole JM (2006) Between veneration and loathing: loving and hating documents. In: Blouin FX, Rosenberg WG (eds) Archives, documentation and institutions of social memory: essays from the Sawyer Seminar. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, pp 43–53Google Scholar
  94. Paskin N (2003) On making and identifying a copy. D-Lib Mag 9(1). Available at http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january03/paskin/01paskin.html
  95. Pillow K (2002) Versions and forgeries: a response to Kivy. J Aesthet Art Crit 60:177–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Planets (2008) White paper: representation information registries. Available at http://www.planets-project.eu/docs/reports/Planets_PC3-D7_RepInformationRegistries.pdf
  97. Posner G (1994) Letter from Berlin: secrets of the files. New Yorker 14 March. Available at http://www.posner.com/articles/bdc%20-%20the%20posner%20file.htm
  98. Puglia S, Rhodes E (2007) Digital imaging: how far have we come and what still needs to be done? RLG DigiNews 11(1). Available at http://www.worldcat.org/arcviewer/1/OCC/2007/08/08/0000070519/viewer/file2484.html
  99. Renear A, Dubin D (2003) Towards identity conditions for digital documents. Available at http://dc2003.ischool.washington.edu/Archive-03/03renear.pdf
  100. Research Libraries Group (2002) Trusted digital repositories: attributes and responsibilities. Available at http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/past/rlg/trustedrep/repositories.pdf
  101. Rusbridge C (2006) Excuse me… Some digital preservation fallacies? Ariadne 46. Available at www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue46/rusbridge
  102. Schellenberg TR (1956) Modern archives: principles and techniques. FW Cheshire, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  103. Schwartz H (1996) The culture of the copy. Zone Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  104. Searle JR (1969) Speech acts: an essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  105. Sexton A, Yeo G, Turner C, Hockey S (2004) User feedback: testing the LEADERS demonstrator application. J Soc Arch 25:189–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Shannon CE, Weaver W (1949) The mathematical theory of communication. University of Illinois Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  107. Shillingsburg PL (2006) From Gutenberg to Google. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Shilton K, Srinivasan R (2007) Participatory appraisal and arrangement for multicultural archival collections. Archivaria 63:87–101Google Scholar
  109. Sloggett R (2005) Valuing significance or signifying value? Culture in a global context. Arch Manuscr 33(2):110–129Google Scholar
  110. Smith BH (1988) Contingencies of value: alternative perspectives for critical theory. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  111. Star SL, Griesemer JR (1989) Institutional ecology, “translations”, and boundary objects: amateurs and professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Soc Stud Sci 19:387–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  112. Storey M (1991) Creeping into print: editing the letters of John Clare. In: Small I, Walsh M (eds) The theory and practice of text-editing. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 62–89Google Scholar
  113. Sutherland K (2009) Being critical: paper-based editing and the digital environment. In: Deegan M, Sutherland K (eds) Text editing, print and the digital world. Ashgate, Farnham, pp 13–25Google Scholar
  114. Tainter JA, Lucas GJ (1983) Epistemology of the significance concept. Am Antiq 48:707–719CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  115. Tanselle GT (1990) Textual criticism and scholarly editing. University Press of Virginia, CharlottesvilleGoogle Scholar
  116. Tebeaux E (1999) Designing written business communication along the shifting cultural continuum. J Bus Tech Commun 13:49–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  117. Tebeaux E (2004) Pillaging the tombs of non-canonical texts. J Bus Tech Commun 18:165–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  118. Thibodeau K (2002) Overview of technological approaches to digital preservation and challenges in coming years. Available at http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub107/thibodeau.html
  119. Thomas S (2009) ‘Curating born-digital archives and manuscripts at the Bodleian Library’. Presentation at Archives and Society seminar, University of London, 3 November 2009Google Scholar
  120. Varpio L, Spafford MM, Schryer CF, Lingard L (2007) Seeing and listening: a visual and social analysis of optometric record-keeping practices. J Bus Tech Commun 21:343–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  121. Wilson A (2005) A performance model and process for preserving digital records for long-term access. In: Archiving 2005: final program and proceedings. Society for Imaging Science and Technology, Springfield, pp 20–25Google Scholar
  122. Wilson A, Platzer C (2004) The National Archives of Australia: approach to digital preservation. Available at http://web.archive.org/web/20070830055422/http://naa.gov.au/recordkeeping/preservation/digital/Wilson_digital_preservation_Oct2004.pdf
  123. Wreen M (1983) Goodman on forgery. Philos Q 33:340–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  124. Yeo G (2007) Concepts of record (1): evidence, information, and persistent representations. Am Arch 70:315–343Google Scholar
  125. Yeo G (2008) Concepts of record (2): prototypes and boundary objects. Am Arch 71:118–143Google Scholar
  126. Yeo G (2009) Custodial history, provenance, and the description of personal records. Libr Cult Rec 44:50–64Google Scholar
  127. Yeo G (2010) Debates about description. In: Eastwood T, MacNeil H (eds) Currents of archival thinking. Libraries Unlimited, Santa Barbara, pp 89–114Google Scholar
  128. Yeo G (forthcoming) The conceptual fonds and the physical collection. To be submitted to Archivaria Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations