Case study

A Q&A with Glen McAninch, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives

The Importance of Provenance, Context and Metadata in Preserving Digital Archival Records. Of the many discussion topics among library archivists, the issue of provenance, as it relates to digital archival records, is especially important. Whether the archival objects are those termed “born digital,” such as publications, photos, minutes, videos and geospatial records, or are records that have been digitized from early non-digital or analog documents, capturing and maintaining critical provenance data can be challenging.

In his, A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology, 2005, Richard Pearce-Moses (past President of the Society of American Archivists and a distinguished Society Fellow) defines provenance as “information regarding the origins, custody and ownership of an item, or collection.” He describes items for inclusion in this category as “arrangement, context, creator, custodial history, entity of origin, office of origin, and original order.” In an additional note, Pearce-Moses also refers to the principle of primacy of provenance in archival description that “… holds that the 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.”