|2. RAD Explained||(Table of Contents)|
|2.1 What is RAD?||(Table of Contents)|
1. identifying the provenance of the records, when they were created, how much of them there are and what their physical characteristics are;
2. providing information about the administration that created the records; and
3. providing information about the content of the records.
Using "multi-level description" RAD determines what information an archivist will have to capture and how s/he will present it, including authorized punctuation formats. The advantage of using RAD is that it helps institutions to eliminate idiosyncracies in their finding aids, makes it easier for users to find what they are looking for, makes it easier to to transmit archival information electronically and generally results in higher quality finding aids. Finally, the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) requires that all finding aids created as a result of work funded by CCA grants be RAD-compliant.
|2.2. What is a Finding Aid?||(Table of Contents)|
In their most complex and useful forms, intellectual finding aids describe archival material in terms of the inter-relationships between a group of records and the administrative entities that created them, including data about physical characteristics of the records such as media and extent. The most complex - and most powerful - of these are multi-level inventories, created using RAD (more about this later). The least complicated finding aids of this type are file- or item-lists which list available files or items by whatever system seems appropriate (eg., files listed alphabetically by title, or books by author). A user consults this type of finding aid in order to find out what a particular group of records includes and to fine- tune any search. In many institutions the finding aids consist largely of file lists, sometimes with a short historical sketch or biography attached. While a useful tool for accessing archival material, file lists do nothing to explain the context of the records and in archives - as in life - context is everything.
Physical finding aids are administrative tools used by archivists to find the actual files, boxes documents, artifacts, etc., that a user has requested. They are quite simple; they identify a thing and note its location. Physical finding aids include shelf lists, (what is on a shelf, or what shelf a thing is on) and box lists (what is in a box, or what box a thing is in).
Some finding aids will contain elements of both. Accession Registers (an administrative tool archivists use to keep track of new accessions that have yet to be arranged and described) will note not only the contents of the accession (in more-or-less general terms) but also its extent and location in the archives and will occasionally include a full file list.
Finding aids can be maintained as database entries on a computer or as hard copy versions printed on paper, or both. Electronic finding aids are searchable, making them extremely convenient. On the other hand, most databases do not support RAD data elements as seamlessly as might be desired and it is often easier to work with printed documents than with electronic ones. While this is of course a matter of institutional policy, the best solution may be to have both electronic and hard copy versions of the finding aid available to the user, if this is possible. Those familiar with HTML will immediately see the ease with which it lends itself to RAD's multi-level format, providing yet another way to create archival finding aids.
|2.3. What is multi-level description?||(Table of Contents)|
RAD uses six levels of description: the fonds (the broadest level of description), sous-fonds, series, sub-series, file and item. They are arranged hierarchically; that is, each level is a part of the level above it and the record descriptions at each level include a reference to the levels above or below. Sous-fonds and sub-series are not explicitly detailed by RAD because they are described in exactly the same manner as fonds and series. It is also possible to have sous-sous fonds and sub-sub-series. Before continuing further it will benecessary to define these terms.
|2.4. The Six Levels of Description||(Table of Contents)|
|2.4.1 The fonds||(Table of Contents)|
The following criteria may be useful. For an administrative entity to be the creator of a fonds it must: have a legal identity, an official mandate, a defined hierarchical position, be capable of conducting most of its business without reference to a higher authority and have a defined and recorded organizational structure.
|2.4.2 The sous-fonds||(Table of Contents)|
|2.4.3 The series||(Table of Contents)|
|2.4.4 The sub-series||(Table of Contents)|
|2.4.5 The file||(Table of Contents)|
|2.4.6 The item||(Table of Contents)|
|2.4.7 Putting it all together||(Table of Contents)|
1) go from the general to the specific;
2) include only information that pertains to the level being described;
3) do not repeat information; and
4) provide a link between levels.
Ideally this description will reflect the pre-existing arrangement of the records. Records are created and maintained in the first place according to a certain arrangement which reflects their function, purpose and use. The archivist must analyse the records, identify that arrangement and then use RAD to describe it. It is not the archivist's job to impose a structure on records unless their original order has been disturbed or never existed in the first place. In the former case the archivist must try to reconstitute original order and in the latter case must create one. The prime principle here is respect for original order which means keeping things the way you found them.
At each level of description the archivist will record information specific to that level only. This is to avoid repeating information. At the fonds level the archivist will include information about the entire organization and all of its records in a general way. When writing up each individual series description the archivist will only include information specific to the records of that series and those parts of the organization that created them. Descriptive elements will be repeated at each level, but the information presented will not be repeated. For example, if access to the entire series "Financial Records" is restricted, there is no need to include a restriction note in the description of the sub-series, "Accounts Receivable".
These levels of description create a documentary structure that mimics the structure and functions of the entity that created it. It may look something like this: