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n. (provenancial, adj.) ~ 1. The origin or source of something. - 2. Information regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of an item or collection.


Provenance1 is a fundamental principle of archives, referring to the individual, family, or organization that created or received the items in a collection. The principle of provenance or the respect des fonds dictates that records of different origins (provenance) be kept separate to preserve their context.

(Duranti 1998, p. 177) The principle of provenance, as applied to appraisal, leads us to evaluate records on the basis of the importance of the creator's mandate and functions, and fosters the use of a hierarchical method, a 'top-down' approach, which has proved to be unsatisfactory because it excludes the 'powerless transactions,' which might throw light on the broader social context, from the permanent record of society.
(Gilliland-Swetland 2000a, p. 12) The principle of provenance has two components: records of the same provenance should not be mixed with those of a different provenance, and the archivist should maintain the original order in which the records were created and kept. The latter is referred to as the principle of original order in English and Registraturprinzip in German. The French conception of respect des fonds did not include the same stricture to maintain original order (referred to in French as respect de l'ordre intérieure), largely because French archivists had been applying what was known as the principle of pertinence and rearranging records according to their subject content.
(Hensen 1993, p. 67) APPM recognizes the primacy of provenance in archival description. This principle holds that that significance of archival materials is heavily dependent on the context of their creation, and that the arrangement and description of these materials should be directly related to their original purpose and function.

A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology