Glossary search


Distinguish From: 

v. ~ 1. To transfer records from the individual or office of creation to a repository authorized to appraise, preserve, and provide access to those records. - 2. Computing · To store data offline.

- n. ~ 3. An archives.1, 2, 3, 5 - 4. Computing · Data stored offline. - 5. Computing · A backup. - 6. Computing · An attribute in some file systems, typically used to indicate that a file has changed since it was backed up.


United States and Canadian archivists generally deprecate the use of 'archive' (without an s) as a noun to mean a collection of records ('archives'), but that form is common in other English-speaking countries. In information technology, the s-less form, 'archive', is commonly used as a verb and to describe collections of backup data.

A data archive3 is sometimes distinguished from a backup (archive5), the former storing data in a form that is readily accessible by software applications and the latter storing data along with system files and applications in a format that supports restoration of part or all of a system after a disaster.

(Maher 1998, p. 254) There are collateral tendencies to use the word 'archive' minus its North American requisite 's' and to 'verbify' the noun. ¶ In many cases, the nonprofessional appropriation of the term 'archives' appears to be part of an attempt by the scholar or database builder to lend panache or cachet and an air of respectability to what otherwise might be little more than a personal hobby or collecting fetish. As archivists, should we simply welcome this popularization of the term 'archives' or should we be bothered by the prevalence of its frequent misuse? Perhaps we should look only on the positive side and see that the growing recognition of the value and importance of documentation that [David] Gracy sought. On the other hand, there is in the popularized use of 'archives' a rather significant threat to the basic goals of the archival profession. Call it paranoia, but I always have the sense that when we see 'archive' used as a verb, or the word 'archives' used in a bastardized way to describe what is clearly a singular, idiosyncratic, and synthetic gathering of documents, we are being confronted with a challenge to our position as professional archivists.