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International Standard for Describing Functions
Scope and purpose
Scope and purpose 1.1
This standard provides guidance for preparing descriptions of functions/activities of corporate bodies associated with the creation and maintenance of archives.
Scope and purpose 1.2
Descriptions of functions and activities may be used: a. to describe functions and activities as units within an archival descriptive system b. to control the creation and use of access points in archival descriptions c. to document relationships between functions/activities and the records to which they gave rise and the corporate bodies involved in the performance of the functions/activities.
Scope and purpose 1.3
Descriptions of functions/activities are intended to complement and supplement descriptions of records created in accordance with ISAD(G) and authority records created in accordance with ISAAR(CPF). Descriptions of the functions/activities performed by corporate bodies can explain how, why and by whom a function or an activity was performed from the time the corporate body first began performing it until the date the corporate body ceased performing it. They can explain how and why records were produced and used and show their relationships with the function or activity and with other records. They can also provide access to all the records created or used in connection with a single activity. Keeping this information separate both from the descriptions of the records and the authority records means less repetition of information and allows for the construction of flexible archival descriptive systems.
Scope and purpose 1.4
The knowledge of the functions offers many advantages:
- it serves the records management as a basis for establishing classification systems
- it serves as a basis for the appraisal of records
- it serves as a basis for the arrangement, classification and description of records
- it serves the users of archives as a tool for retrieval and analysis of records.
Related standards and guidelines
Note: This list includes the dates of relevant standards as they existed at the time of finalization of the 1st edition of the standard in 2008. Future readers are encouraged to refer to the latest version of each standard.
- ISAD (G) - General International Standard Archival Description, 2nd ed., Madrid: International Council on Archives, 2000.
- ISAAR(CPF) – International Standard Authority Records for Corporate bodies, Persons, Families, 2nd ed, Vienna : International Council on Archives, 2004.
- ISO 639-2 - Codes for the representation of names of languages, Alpha-3 code, Geneva: International Standards Organization, 1998.
- ISO 999 - Information and documentation - Guidelines for the content, organization and presentation of indexes, Geneva: International Standards Organization, 1996.
- ISO 2788 - Documentation - Guidelines for the establishment and development of monolingual thesauri, Geneva: International Standards Organization, 1986.
- ISO 3166 - Codes for the representation of names of countries, Geneva: International Standards Organization, 1997.
- ISO 5963 - Documentation - Methods for examining documents, determining their subjects, and selecting indexing terms, Geneva: International Standards Organization, 1985.
- ISO 5964 - Documentation - Guidelines for the establishment and development of multilingual thesauri, Geneva: International Standards Organization, 1985.
- ISO 8601 - Data elements and interchange formats - Information interchange - Representation of dates and times, 2nd ed., Geneva: International Standards Organization, 2000.
- ISO 15489 - Information and documentation - Records management, parts 1 and 2, Geneva: International Standards Organization, 2001.
- ISO 15511 – Information and documentation – International standard identifier for libraries and related organizations, Geneva: International Standards Organization, 2003.
- ISO 15924 - Codes for the representation of names of scripts, Geneva: International Standards Organization, 2001.
Glossary of terms and definitions
The following glossary forms an integral part of this standard. The terms are defined in the context of the rules.
Activities are the tasks performed by a corporate body to accomplish each of its functions. There may be several activities associated with each function. In some cases, the same activities may occur under a number of different functions. Activities encompass transactions, which in turn produce records. Examples are (for the recruiting function): selecting, deploying, monitoring, evaluating.
The creation of an accurate representation of a unit of description and its component parts, if any, by capturing, analyzing, organizing and recording information that serves to identify, manage, locate and explain archival materials and the context and records systems which produced it. This term also describes the products of the process.
The authorised form of name combined with other information elements that identify and describe the named entity and may also point to other related authority records.
An organization or group of persons that is identified by a particular name and that acts, or may act, as an entity. Also includes an individual acting in a corporate capacity.
Any entity (corporate body, family or person) that created, accumulated and/or maintained records in the conduct of personal or corporate activity.
Any high level purpose, responsibility or task assigned to the accountability agenda of a corporate body by legislation, policy or mandate. Functions are then decomposed into a related set of activities. Functions are generally more stable than administrative structures, which are often amalgamated or devolved when restructuring takes place. Examples are: justice administration, finance and human resources management.
The relationships between records and the organizations or individuals that created, accumulated and/or maintained and used them in the conduct of personal or corporate activity. Provenance is also the relationship between records and the functions/activities which produced them.
Information in any form or medium, created or received and maintained by an organization or person in the transaction of business or the conduct of affairs. Transaction. The smallest unit of an activity. Transactions result in the production of records, which constitute evidence of activities performed to fulfil a function. Example: a transaction may be ‘to complete an evaluation form for a training course’ and the specific record produced from this transaction is the ‘evaluation form’.
Structure and use of the standard
Structure and use 4.1
This standard determines the type of information that could be included in descriptions of functions/activities and provides guidance on how such descriptions may be deployed in an archival informative system. The content of the information elements included in the descriptions will be determined by the conventions and/or rules that the agency follows.
Structure and use 4.2
This standard consists of information elements, each of which contains:
- a. the name of the element of description;
- b. a statement of purpose for the element of description;
- c. a statement of the rule (or rules) applicable to the element; and
- d. where applicable, examples illustrating implementation of the rule.
Structure and use 4.3
Paragraphs are numbered and are given for citation purposes only. These numbers should not be used to designate elements of description or to prescribe the order or structure of descriptive resources.
Structure and use 4.4
The elements of description for functions/activities are organised into four information areas:
- 1. Identity Area
(where information is conveyed which uniquely identifies the function/activity being described and which defines a standardized access point
- 2. Description Area
(where relevant information is conveyed about the nature and context of the function/activity being described)
- 3. Relationships Area
(where relationships with other functions/activities are recorded and described)
- 4. Control Area
(where the description of a function/activity is uniquely identified and information is recorded on how, when and by which agency the description was created and maintained)
Structure and use 4.5
This standard also provides in Chapters 6 and 7 guidelines for linking descriptions of functions/activities to authority records that describe records creators and/or to descriptions of archives. Note that a given description may be linked to as many records and/or descriptions of archives as required.
Structure and use 4.6
The appendix provides full examples of descriptions of functions/activities compiled in accordance with this standard. See also 4.10.
Structure and use 4.7
All the elements covered by these rules are available for use, but the following two elements are essential:
- Type (element 5.1.1);
- Authorised name of the function/activity (element 5.1.2); and
- Function/activity description identifier (element 5.4.1).
Structure and use 4.8
The nature of the function/activity being described and the requirements of the particular system or network within which the preparer of a description works will determine which of the optional elements of description are used in a given description of function/ activity, and whether these elements are presented in a narrative and/or a structured format.
Structure and use 4.9
Many of the descriptive elements in a description of a function/activity established in accordance with the present standard will be used as access points. Rules and conventions for standardising access points may be developed nationally or separately for each language. Vocabularies and conventions to be used in creating or selecting the data content for these elements may also be developed nationally or separately for each language.
Structure and use 4.10
Examples provided throughout the standard are illustrative and not prescriptive. They illuminate the provisions of the rules to which they are attached, rather than extend those provisions. Do not take the examples, or the form in which they are presented as instructions. To clarify the context, each example is followed by an indication in italic of the name of the agency that supplied the example. Further explanatory notes may follow, also in italic, preceded by the word Note.
Structure and use 4.11
This standard is intended to be used in conjunction with ISAD(G) - General International Standard Archival Description, 2nd edition, ISAAR(CPF) – International Standard Archival Authority Records for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, 2nd edition, ISAAR(CPF), and with national archival descriptive standards. When these standards are used together within the context of an archival descriptive system or network, descriptions of functions/activities will be linked to descriptions of archives and to authority records, and vice versa. See Chapter 6 and 7 for guidance on how these links may be created.
Structure and use 4.12
This standard addresses only part of the conditions needed to support the exchange of information about functions and activities. Successful automated exchange of information about archival functions over computer networks is dependent upon the adoption of a suitable communication format by the repositories involved in the exchange. This standard is intended to be used as the basis for an ulterior development of XML schemas.
Elements of a function/activity description
Type of description
To indicate whether the description is a function or an activity.
Specify whether the description is a function or an activity.
To create an authorised access point that uniquely identifies the function/activity being described.
Record the authorised name of the function/activity being described. In cases the name is not enough, add the dates, the territorial or administrative scope, or the name of the institution which performs the function/activity. This element is to be used in conjunction with the element Function/activity description identifier (5.4.1).
To indicate any other names for the function/activity being described.
Record any other names for the function/activity being described.
To classify functions/activities according to classification schemes.
Record any term and/or number from a classification scheme of functions/activities. Record the classification scheme used in the element Rules and/or conventions used (5.4.3).
To identify the territorial, legal or administrative domain of the function/activity being described.
Record the predominant territorial, legal or administrative domain of the function/activity being described.
To identify the date or range of dates of the function/activity being described.
Provide a date or date span, which covers the dates when the function/activity being described was started and when it finished. If a function/activity is ongoing, no end date is needed.
To provide information about the purpose of the function/activity being described.
Record a free text description of the purpose of the function/activity being described.
To provide a concise history of the function/activity being described.
Record in narrative form or as a chronology the main events relating to the function/activity being described.
To identify the legal basis of the function/activity being described.
Record any law, directive or charter which creates, changes or ends the function/activity being described.
To provide significant information of the general social, cultural, economic, political and/or historical context in which the function/activity was performed.
Record any significant information of the general social, cultural, economic, political and/or historical context in which the function/activity was performed.
To provide the authorised name of any related function/activity.
Record the authorised name of any related function/activity.
Category of relationship
To identify the category of relationship between the function/activity being described and another function/activity.
Record a general category into which the relationship being described falls. Use general categories prescribed by national rules and/or conventions or one of the following categories: hierarchical, temporal, associative. Record in the Rules and/or conventions element (5.4.3) the typology used to describe the relationship.
Description of relationship
To provide a specific description of the nature of the relationship.
Record a precise description of the nature of the relationship between the function/activity being described and the related function/activity.
To indicate the dates of duration of the relationship with another function/activity.
Record the start and, when relevant, the end date of the relationship.
Function/activity description identifier
To identify the function/activity description uniquely within the context in which it will be used.
Record a unique description identifier in accordance with local and/or national conventions. If the description is to be used internationally, record the code of the country in which the description was created in accordance with the latest version of ISO 3166 Codes for the representation of names of countries. Where the creator of the description is an international organisation, give the organisational identifier in place of the country code.
To identify the agency(ies) responsible for the description.
Record the full authorised form of name(s) of agency(ies) responsible for creating, modifying or disseminating the description or, alternatively, record a code for the agency in accordance with the national or international agency code standard.
Rules and/or conventions used
To identify the national or international conventions or rules applied in creating the description.
Record the names and where useful the editions or publication dates of the conventions or rules applied.
To indicate the drafting status of the description so that users can understand the current status of the authority record.
Record the current status of the description, indicating whether it is a draft, finalized and/or revised or deleted.
Level of detail
To indicate whether the description applies a minimal, partial or a full level of detail.
Record whether the description consists of a minimal, partial or full level of detail.
Dates of creation, revision or deletion
To indicate when this description was created, revised or deleted.
Record the date the description was created and the dates of any revisions to the description.
Language(s) and script(s)
To indicate the language(s) and/or script(s) used to describe the function/activity.
Record the language(s) and/or script(s) of the description.
To indicate the sources consulted in describing the function/activity.
Record the sources consulted in establishing the function/activity description.
To document the creation of and changes to the description.
Record notes pertinent to the creation and maintenance of the description.
Relating functions/activities to corporate bodies
To identify uniquely the related corporate body and/or enable the linking of the function/activity description to the authority record of this related corporate body.
Record the authorised form of name (ISAAR(CPF), 5.1.2) for the related corporate body and/or the authority record identifier (ISAAR(CPF), 5.4.1).
Nature of relationships
To identify the nature of the relationships between the function/activity and the related corporate body.
Record information on how the corporate body performs the function/activity (completely, partially, main or secondary function..., in accordance with the legal status, the mandate...).
Dates of relationships
To indicate the dates of duration of the relationship(s) with the corporate body.
Record, when relevant, the start and the end date of the relationship(s).
Relating functions/activities to archival materials and other resources
To identify uniquely the related resource(s) and/or enable the linking of the function/activity description to a description of the related resource(s), where such descriptions exist.
Provide the unique identifiers/reference codes and/or titles for the related resource(s).
To identify the type of related resource(s) being referenced.
Record the type of related resource(s).
Nature of relationships
To identify the nature of the relationships between the function/activity and the related resource(s).
Describe the nature of the relationships between the function/activity and the related resource(s).
To provide any relevant dates for the related resource(s) and/or the dates of the relationships between the function/activity and the related resource(s), and to indicate the significance of those dates.
Record any relevant dates for the related resource(s) and/or the relationships between the function/activity and the related resource(s) and describe the significance of those dates.