The Nature of the Records and of the Processes that Create and Maintain Them

Research Questions

  • What types of documents are traditionally made or received and set aside (that is, created) in the course of artistic, scientific and governmental activities that are expected to be delivered on-line? For what purposes? What types of electronic documents are currently being created to accomplish those same activities? Have the purposes for which these documents are created changed?

  • What are the nature and the characteristics of the traditional process of document creation in each activity? Have they been altered by the use of digital technology and, if yes, how?

  • What are the formal elements and attributes of the documents generated by these processes in both a traditional and a digital environment? What is the function of each element and the significance of each attribute? Specifically, what is the manifestation of authorship in the records of each activity and its implications for the exercise of intellectual property rights and the attribution of responsibilities?

  • Does the definition of a record adopted by InterPARES 1 apply to all or part of the documents generated by these processes? If yes, given the different manifestations of the record’s nature in such documents, how do we recognize and demonstrate the necessary components that the definition identifies? If not, is it possible to change the definition maintaining theoretical consistency in the identification of documents as records across the spectrum of human activities? In other words, should we be looking at other factors that make of a document a record than those that diplomatics and archival science have considered so far?

  • As government and businesses deliver services electronically and enter into transactions based on more dynamic Web-based presentations and exchanges of information, are they neglecting to capture adequate documentary evidence of the occurrence of these transactions?

  • Is the move to more dynamic and open-ended exchanges of information blurring the responsibilities and altering the legal liabilities of the participants in electronic transactions?

  • How do record creators traditionally determine the retention of their records and implement this determination in the context of each activity? How do record retention decisions and practices differ for individual and institutional creators? How has the use of digital technology affected their decisions and practices?


The central concepts relating to records and to the record-creation and maintenance processes were defined by the working groups within the Domain 1 Task Force. Using grounded theory, the Domain 1 Task Force conducted case studies across a wide spectrum of activities to gather information about record-making and recordkeeping processes and the records resulting from them. To achieve this purpose, it developed the necessary tools (for example, questionnaires). Although the case studies were conducted within the context of Domain 1, the data gathered were relevant to the work of all three domains.

Diplomatic analysis was used to describe the formal elements of the records and their process of creation and to identify the pertinent contextual information that needs to be preserved. In InterPARES 1, diplomatic analysis was used to identify the records among all types of recorded information present in each case study, and to ascertain the extent to which traditional record elements continue to appear in electronic records, by bouncing unknown realities against the known one; that is, against the ideal template of the traditional record. In InterPARES 2, the approach was that of the original diplomatists: an examination of a wide variety of records served to identify elements, attributes and their function(s) and to generate templates reflecting the abstract forms of experiential, dynamic and interactive records by identifying the necessary characteristics of each of those records; that is, all the possible elements and attributes distinguishing each.

In addition, the records observed during the case studies were represented in models to test the templates against them. The modeling technique used, IDEFØ, was selected at the first research workshop. In addition to representing records types in templates and testing them against the models of the records generated by each type of activity to see whether the characteristics key to their authentic preservation are consistent across activities, this study represented abstractly the processes of creation and maintenance of each type of record reflected by each template using activity modeling and then generating work-flows that were tested against the processes typical of each activity.

This work of collection of data, analysis, and representtion and testing of the findings coalesced with the research conducted in Domain 2 and resulted in the development and testing of guidelines that can be used by the various kinds of records creators to produce and maintain records that can be authentically preserved over the long term.


The outcomes of the research conducted in Domain 1 were: questionnaires, case studies overviews, templates for analysis, entity and activity models, work-flows, and methodology statements. These research tools and products, which are posted on the Website (see the "Products" section in the header menu), were further communicated in presentations, lectures, scholarly writings, interviews, etc.


Public project documents for Domain 1 are located here.

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