n. ~ 1. The process of creating a finding aid or other access tools that allow individuals to browse a surrogate of the collection to facilitate access and that improve security by creating a record of the collection and by minimizing the amount of handling of the original materials. - 2. Records management · A written account of the physical characteristics, informational content, and functional purpose of a records series or system.
†(Duff and Johnson 2001, p. 43) In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Society of American Archivists' Archives, Personal Papers, and Manuscripts and the Canadian Rules for Archival Description (RAD) codified archival practice and established the elements needed to represent a fonds or collection. The primary purpose of creating descriptive tools is to help users locate relevant material.
†(Duranti 1993, p. 52) In the 1930s in Europe, description began to be seen as a means for making the user independent of the archivists specialized knowledge, and to be aimed primarily at compiling 'instruments of research' for the user, not the archivist. Moreover, the description activity acquired a non-evaluative character as a consequence of the recognition that its products, in order to be useful for every kind of research, had to serve none in particular.
†(MacNeil 1995, p. 30) Metadata systems capture and communicate information about transactions and the context in which they occur within an electronic record system. . . . Description, on the other hand, captures and communicates knowledge about the broad administrative and documentary contexts of records creation within an organization as a whole as one moves further away from the original circumstances of creation. Its purpose is to preserve, perpetuate, and authenticate meaning over time so that it is available and comprehensible to all users – present and potential.