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In Search of the Continuum: Ian

Maclean's 'Australian Experience'


Essays on Recordkeeping
FRANK UPWARD
Introduction: Theory and Experience
In 1958 Ian Maclean, then Chief Archives Officer with the Archives Division of the
Commonwealth National Library, toured North American and European archival
institutions looking for best practices and suitable patterns for structuring archival
services. It was a prelude to the creation of the Commonwealth Archives Office in 1961
as a separate entity. While there was much that Maclean gleaned from the overseas trip,
there seemed to be little that made him doubt the validity of further developing the
Division's own approach, which was to seek answers to the problems of twentieth
century records through a pragmatic mix of Australian experience, an understanding of
European archival theory measured against that experience, and a critical analysis of
overseas practice. The result has been an Australian approach to recordkeeping broadly
structured within concepts derived from Europe, but with significantly different
principles more suited for records of the mid-twentieth century.
It has taken thirty years, and the advent of electronic records management
considerations to the archival scene, for recordkeeping theory to receive the style of
constant scrutiny and new expression that it had received in the Archives Division.
Embedded in the new Office's approach to archival practice was Maclean's belief that if
archivists had a separate professional identity then it was derived from a professional
study which revolved around three elements:

the study of the characteristics of records materials,

the comparative study of past and present recordkeeping systems, and

the classification problems associated with these.1

Ian Maclean noted that such theory:


. . . in whatever form it may ultimately take, is also the essential groundwork of archival
training. I say in whatever form because I am well aware that, even if its main principles
continue to stand up to professional criticism, it needs much clarification and
adjustment, not only in terms of logical argument but also in the light of the practical
experience of archivists and records managers. 2
<>It is the objective of this essay to carry forward the delayed process of clarification
and adjustment by examining two articles written by Ian Maclean in which he
communicated the Archives Division's recordkeeping experience to international
audiences:

'Australian Experience in Records and Archives Management' in The American Archivist, vol.22, no.4,
Oct.
1959,
pp.383-418.
'An analysis of Jenkinson's "Manual of Archive Administration" in the light of Australian Experience' in
Essays in Memory of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, edited for the Society of Archivists by Albert E.J. Hollaender,
1962, pp.128-152.

The first article, which Maclean wrote at the behest of archivists in North America, 3
dealt with the nature of the archival profession, the training of archivists, and the nexus
between archives and records management. The greatest emphasis is upon registry
practices which the Archives Division had helped revitalize during the 1950s. Their
studies had stripped out time consuming correspondence registration activities and
created a well controlled methodology for pre-action filing. Records management in the
Commonwealth, with the full support of the Public Service Board had been upgraded in
1958 with the introduction of departmental Registrar's positions and the conduct of a
Registrar's training program. The training program is set out in Maclean's article. Apart
from the file management system, the Registrar's scheme also emphasized the survey
and elimination of non registry material, with the archival institution monitoring the
appropriateness of disposal schedules and having a power of veto.
The second article, again a requested article and shaped by its appearance in a festschrift
for Sir Hilary Jenkinson, compared the practices of the Commonwealth Archives Office
with the principles outlined in Jenkinson's Manual. In relation to Australian experience
it dealt at length with the development of systems of control for the transmission of
archives, arguing for an approach in which the documentation of records would accrete
during their transmission along Jenkinson's chain of custody and indicating what
progress had been made in this direction.
As the article citations and summaries indicate, they both have their own context in
terms of the publications they appeared in, the audiences that would have read them,
and the Australian programs they discuss. They also have an intellectual history in terms
of the sources of the ideas within the work of the Archives Division with particular
reference to the contributions of other staff members to those ideas. 4 Much of this
context will be ignored in this chapter which is directed towards chipping away at the
discourse Maclean's articles represent, with a view to finding the continuum within but
never explicitly pulled together. Maclean's nominated areas of study do not sit idle in
the articles themselves. They animate the development of practical approaches and
refute the notion that archival theory is 'much ado about shelving'. A practical approach
is revealed which is grounded in the characteristics of recorded information, focuses
upon recordkeeping systems and gives conceptual dimensions to the processes involved
in the ordering of records. As a discourse it did not gather much new momentum after
the 1950s, but its encapsulation within the series system in the 1960s and its reemergence within studies of electronic recordkeeping suggest that its elements are
recursive and makes an essay on Maclean's articles overdue.
Prelude: Mid-Twentieth Century Records and the Branches of the Archival
Profession
In relation to archival acquisition the 1950s had been a decade of salvage in Australia. It
was also a decade in which archivists began to emerge in modest numbers and their
ideas and practices became institutionalized in a manner which has left us with many
legacies. 5 Within the Archives Division a network of repositories had been established
and had been stocked using survey and collection approaches based on American

experience with similar projects. Maclean tended to represent as an easy task the
success of the Division's period as a hunter and gatherer of archives. The
Commonwealth government had not been formed until 1901 and, although it inherited
some nineteenth century records, in an international sense it had few 'old' records to deal
with. By the time the Commonwealth Archives Office was created in 1961 it had
already established a basic stock of historical material, its operations were confined to
government records, and a fifty year access rule meant that few of the holdings of the
Office were open to public research. 6
During the 1950s the Division had begun to focus strongly on analysing recordkeeping
activities in a modern bureaucracy, reflecting the needs of an institution which in future
would be dealing mainly with current records. This focus led Maclean to propose an
archival profession consisting of three branches: those who worked in departments,
those who worked in archival institutions but dealt with modern records, and those in
archival institutions who worked on historical records. 7
Maclean was not impressed with the approach adopted by many archivists in the USA
during the 1950s, which gave archival primacy to the third group, the historical
archivist. He hoped for an easing of the tensions between archives and records
management caused by the Hoover Commission report of 1949, arguing that with the
report
the new era of records management was launched, in other countries as well as in the
United States; and many archivists retreated to a defensive position in which they
visualised themselves as historians serving historians, making only occasional sorties
into the domain of records management with respect to the appraisal of records for
archival purposes. 8
In private correspondence Maclean went as far as arguing that the true archivist was the
records manager, equating such people with the first of his three branches. As he wrote
in 1958 to Dr Grover of the US National Archives and Records Service,
It seems to me that the archival profession is undergoing significant change. The socalled records managers are really the archivists of the twentieth century. It is really
necessary to start to think of archivists as we have known them to date as becoming
what I might call, for want of a better term, historical archivists. I say this for two
reasons. In the first case, the records of the mid-twentieth century are considerably
different in form, quality and quantity to the records of the nineteenth century. In the
second case, many archivists have ceased to be concerned primarily with collecting the
records of the past for use by the present generation and are now concerned with
organising the records of the present for use in the immediate future. 9
Maclean was greeting a false dawn. The successful systematization of registry processes
diminished the need for records managers to understand the range of concepts that went
into the development of the system. Records managers became participants in the
processes of administrative recordkeeping and lumpers and carters of the physical
record. They did not emerge as registrars, as managers of the recordkeeping processes,
apart from the few exceptions to the general trend. 10

Grounding the Continuum: Characteristics of Records Materials


The Division accepted Jenkinson's concept of the archival document as its starting
point, broadly agreeing with the definition Jenkinson offered in 1947 to students of the
new course at University College London that
Archives are the Documents accumulated by a natural process in the course of the
Conduct of Affairs of any kind, Public or Private, at any date; and preserved thereafter
for Reference, in their own Custody, by the persons responsible for the Affairs in
question or their successors. 11
Maclean himself, while not wishing to spend time on definitions of archives in his
articles, proposed some interesting modifications to the Jenkinson definition of archival
documents, including a rejection of the notion that they had to be preserved thereafter
for reference. He also put forward a suggestion that it is not just their status as
documents that have to be considered but also whether such documents achieve archive
(or record) status only when they are made part of the record. For those alert to the
philosophical nuances, Maclean can be read as suggesting that records creation is not a
natural process, but involves a conscious decision to capture a record. 12
In making these suggestions Maclean stripped the definition back to its conceptual
origins, which can be found in the text of the nineteenth century Dutch archivists,
Muller, Feith and Fruin, and their definition of an archief, which in the English
translation is inadequately described as an archival collection:
An archival collection is the whole of the written documents, drawings and printed
matter, officially received or produced by an administrative body or one of its officials,
in so far as these documents were intended to remain in the custody of that body or of
that official. 13
An archive in the Dutch definition is a creation built up in the conduct of business, not a
collection, as most people understand the term. Maclean's concept of incorporation into
the official record is much closer to the original meaning. An archief of the type
described in the Dutch manual is produced. It is never collected. The intention of
keeping the record at the time of creation matters, which in a sense denies the
naturalness of the process. Many archivists since the nineteenth century have argued
that recordkeeping systems collect, rather than capture, records, or have tried along with
Jenkinson to distinguish between archive making and archive keeping by giving a
preservation twist to the latter but both arguments diverge from basic conceptual
propositions about the nature of an archive in the sense outlined in Muller, Feith and
Fruin's manual, whatever they may say about an archival collection. 14
Jenkinson had never accepted that age was a test for identifying the quality of archives
and was aware of the artificiality of the archives/records distinction and the manner in
which this was pushed too far by North American archivists. 15 In the Archives
Division there was general agreement with Jenkinson's understanding that archives and
records were, in their characteristics, much the same thing, and this had major
ramifications in the manner in which Jenkinson's concepts of moral and physical
defence and continuous custody were interpreted. Jenkinson acknowledged that archives
quality is dependent upon custodians and assigned to them the task of setting aside
material for preservation in official custody. His practical guidances for moral and

physical defence were narrowly custodial in that the focus was on records that had been
transferred to an archival repository. 16
For older records, Jenkinson could have his cake and eat it too. The evidential qualities
of the material in custody depended upon proving 'an unblemished line of responsible
custodians', but the best site for such material was an archives, where physical custody
gave the archivist the chance to look towards both the moral and physical defence of the
material. 17 Jenkinson developed his principles within this framework, this final
custodial characteristic of the records material, but, as Maclean had noted to Grover,
twentieth century government records were 'considerably different in form, quality, and
quantity', and this required a different view of the custodial chain.
Jenkinson's Manual briefly acknowledged that, for purposes of custodial continuity, the
archivist might have to go out of his way to secure the custody of archives with which
he is not primarily concerned. 18 For an archival institution with an interest in current
recordkeeping, a brief acknowledgment can be interpreted as an open invitation. The
Archives Division investigated custodial continuity for records of the present tied to an
approach based on the characteristics of the archives themselves and current
recordkeeping processes. Jenkinson's defence concepts were thereby linked to
considerations of the evidential qualities of records in a current recordkeeping context,
and Jenkinson's notion of continuous custody became a pointer to the need to preserve
the authenticity and impartiality of archival documents through a recordkeeping
continuum. 19 The approach that subsequently developed in the Commonwealth
Archives Office is encapsulated well in the following comment written by Gerald
Fischer in 1972:
In the present view of records management, scarcely any time is left for dust to settle on
records before they are the subject of archival scrutiny, transfer and control. There is
often no settling down process for records in a purely administrative way so that they
find their own administrative historical level. More prying than ministers of the Crown
were at royal births, archivists are on the scene from the very point of conception of
records. This is unseemly to say the least and . . . may well produce some very wayward
behaviour . . . 20
<>In precept, Fischer is the Jenkinsonian reiterating rules of objectivity. Conceptually,
however, the Commonwealth Archives Office's staff could claim to be the
Jenkinsonians. 21 They were helping to establish recordkeeping processes which
attended to the moral and physical defence of the archives and paid respect to notions of
their continuous custody. Some believed that the dust would choke those government
archival institutions which waited for it to settle on the records of the second half of the
twentieth century.
Finding Provenance: the Comparative Study of Past and Present Recordkeeping
Systems
The increase in bulk and complexity of government records is a global phenomenon, but
reactions to it in terms of records creation processes have varied from country to
country. Even within European theory, as David Bearman has explained, there are
significant differences in approach varying from the tight registry approaches of
Northern Europe to the form of record approach of the Italians and to the mixed
approaches of the Dutch and the British. 22 In turn these variations are reflected in the

programs and theories of National Archives. On the recordkeeping map Australia in the
mid-twentieth century can be plotted alongside the Dutch and British.
In an article published in 1956 in Archives and Manuscripts, Maclean noted that
twentieth century Commonwealth government records could be broadly separated into
two main classes: file type records and form type records. While the impacts of the
increased volume of records and the greater complexity of the business covered were
obvious, Maclean also noted that these should not distract attention away from another
major change relating to the greater systematic linking of records to business method,
which involved the conscious manipulation of the records product and a movement
away from the concept that records accumulation was a natural process. 23
The awareness that mid-twentieth century records involved greater systematization took
the Division into a dual strategy for gaining control of current records within the
aforementioned Registrar's project. First, registers of sets of all records held in
departments should be established. A set was not synonymous with a series. It was a
physical unit which might equate with the series or might be a portion of it. It could
even be a physical representation of a number of series as a result of the amalgamation
of records at times of administrative change. The set approach offered a fairly standard
records management method for gaining control over forms of record and standardised
series of records through the conduct of surveys.
Second, detailed attention should be paid to registries, not because they handled the
bulk of records but because
. . . all departments have to deal with some complex transactions which cannot be
subjected to set work procedures but which arise out of complex political, economic,
social and administrative situations. These are the ones which create not only the most
difficult organisational problems in the department but also the most difficult fileconstruction problems for the record staff. 24
In other words if the records are going to be consciously manipulated anyway archival
institutions should help organisations to cope with the most difficult tasks within this
manipulation. The Archives Division helped revitalise registry systems during the 1950s
but their interest went deeper than this. In reverting to an emphasis on recordkeeping
systems, the Division was revisiting the registraturprinzip of Northern Europe and
taking a particular approach to provenance, grounding that notion in the internal
structures for recordkeeping not the external structures in which records were created.
The notions of internal and external structure are confused ones within archival theory,
and Chris Hurley, elsewhere in this publication, offers a much better construct when he
writes about context areas and recordkeeping areas. 25 In the 1950s, however, this was
another unresolved contradiction that had been wrought from nineteenth century theory.
The Division's interest in current recordkeeping processes again took them into the
middle of the controversy. In this case the tension was caused not by a confusion
between an archief and an archival collection, but by the difference between the French
principle of respect des fonds and the germanic provenienzprinzip. Maclean's articles
show the Division was much more influenced by the germanic view, with its emphasis
on registration order. 26

Respect des fonds was a principle developed in France relevant to the preparation of
inventories and the physical grouping of records in repositories. It was a classification
system for recordkeeping entities pitched more at what Chris Hurley has described as
the 'ambient' level. In its original conception Michel Duchein has noted that it had little
to say on the internal dimensions of structure relating to the process of records creation.
27 As a principle its functionality can be found in the manner in which it can deal with
the juridical (or legal) entity at a broad level. The fonds is the framework in which
records are created, but it is not the creating agent itself. It is a useful fiction. 28
The provenienzprinzip, on the other hand had as its companion the registraturprinzip,
which imposed control on registry records, which were the body of official records,
registered before action in accordance with a classification scheme based on the
administrative objects of the organisation itself. In a very strong sense germanic
provenance gives expression to provenance at the time of records creation. Its
functionality as a principle is derived from the registration order, which reflects the
activities of the entities creating the records. Records have their internal structure
imposed upon them as a result of current recordkeeping processes based on the
activities of the organisation that created them.
These principles seem to have been brought together near the end of the nineteenth
century by Muller, Feith and Fruin within their approach to the ordering of an archive.
29 Both principles had relevance to the records encountered in the Dutch situation. In
bringing the principles together a third view of provenance was created, which
amalgamated the other views and had its own features. The Dutch contribution was to
place between the other approaches the notion of a dorsal spine of internal
organisational structure to which different types of records could be attached, be they
registered items or form type records. That principle was that 'the system of
classification should be based on the original organisation of the archive which
corresponds in its main outline with the organisation of the administration which
produced it.' 30
Although it has only recently become apparent to non-Dutch archivists, Muller, Feith
and Fruin's principle has no relevance to twentieth century records. 31 The Archives
Division discovered its irrelevance experientially. By the 1950s the structural bones of
government recordkeeping were more complex than any vertebrate could be. The
Archives Division rejected the physical laying out of archives in the traditional manner
as an impossibility for twentieth century records and not worth pursuing for any records
anyhow, since what mattered for archival storage was location control, not the creation
of browsable clumps of records. 32 More importantly, however, the Division began to
develop practices which extended upon aspects of nineteenth century European archival
theory and marked the beginning of new ways of thinking about archival tasks. 33
Maclean discussed these practical ideas within the traditionally prestigious archival term
'classification', a term which in North America and Australia has continually bumped
into alternative usage by groups such as librarians and records managers and may well
be falling into disrepute. The term, however, has very particular manifestations within
archival theory and practice which need to be considered before deciding whether to let
go of it.
Classification:
the
Ordering
of
Recordkeeping
Processes
Classification can be viewed as consisting of three ordering processes. First there is the

development of concepts and precepts (general notions and practical rules) by which the
process will be carried out, second a plan or schema is needed for implementation, and
third implementation occurs. The object of the exercise is categorization, and the
placement of entities within the categories. This is a fairly obvious approach which
particular applications of the process tend to obscure. Within professional thought
classification has tended to take on particular meanings. Thus in the nineteenth century,
with great clarity and some originality, Muller, Feith and Fruin produced the manual,
which followed standard rational thought of the time about classing. It had concepts and
rules, and as discussed above it proposed a schemata for preserving or re-establishing an
archief's dorsal spine. It was based on administrative objects as reflected in the
structures of records creating entities, was physically implemented within repositories,
and was mirrored in the inventories of records.
The Dutch word used in the title of the manual, ordinen, can be variously translated.
'Ordering', 'arrangement' and 'classement' are some of the terms which have been used.
34 There is a tendency, however, for 'arrangement' to displace classification in archival
terminology and for the description of records to become the focus for the development
of schema by which records are placed. 35 The physical processes of placing records
into archival systems have dominated ways of thinking about our ordering processes.
The Archives Division's thought about the characteristics of twentieth century records
and its study of recordkeeping systems, suggested that ordering or classificatory
processes are multifaceted. In Jenkinson's Manual, classificatory processes are widely
discussed, using terms like differentiation, and the placing of records. As Maclean
pointed out, this refusal to face up to the complexities involved in classifying
documents is apparent in the writing of T.R. Schellenberg. 36 In a records management
context Schellenberg claimed that 'Classification, as applied to public records, means
the arrangement of them according to a plan designed to make them available for
current use', a narrow use of the term which loses contact with notions of placement and
differentiation.
In the Archives Division, however, a more classical notion of classing was developed.
Maclean was uncomfortable with the professional meanings that were developing
around the term and defined it broadly and with imprecision. He saw Schellenberg's
definition cited above as a threat to the proper service provision of archivists because it
de-emphasized the evidential status of records and made use the raison d'etre. 37 It
changed recordkeeping, which involves ongoing classificatory processes, into records
management. Records management classification, from a utilitarian point of view,
serves a narrow range of purposes. When it is viewed, as the Division viewed it, as a
key component in the ordering of the record the focus of its practice is greatly
expanded. 38
Alternative terms for the meaning that classification had within the Divisions's
discourse include the Jenkinsonian terms 'placing' and 'differentiation'. A more modern
interpretation of the term, as it was used, might be 'the establishment of processes for
document discrimination' and 'the placement of documents within recordkeeping
systems'. Thus Maclean's American Archivist article discussed classing in relation to
differentiation into series of records, to file-making, to mail-handling, and to
disposition, with an overriding emphasis upon classifying the activities which produced
the records.

This aspect of the Australian recordkeeping continuum brings it in to alignment with the
service based version developed by the Canadian archivist, Jay Atherton some twentyfive years later. Atherton's continuum was a revision of the life history model based, on
a recognition that the parallels between archives and records management were revealed
if you switched from thinking about the physical tasks involved in managing the record
and thought about the management tasks within a service focus. He proposed a four
stage model: creation or receipt, classification within some predetermined system,
scheduling, and lastly maintenance and use. The service focus that Atherton proposed
was based on one of the fundamental characteristics identified by Ian Maclean and the
Archives Division that 'records are created to serve an administrative purpose, usually to
document a transaction or decision'. 39
Atherton's use of the term 'classification' is typical of the narrow use which has brought
the term into some disrepute and, linguistically, the focus is still the physical record
rather than the processes of recordkeeping, but the elements are similarly 'Australian' in
that characteristics, systems, and placement (classification) are brought together in an
interrelated fashion and applied to records in general, not records in archival
repositories alone. In Maclean's articles classification is deployed across all
recordkeeping processes. The Archives Division's service continuum was influenced by
Jenkinson's Manual and the extensive treatment it gave to 'Archive Making'. To
understand the difference between a continuum of the Australian style and Atherton's,
one only has to look at the creation and receipt stage. In Atherton this is a separate stage
from classification, whereas in Maclean's writing a genuine continuum is put in train.
The records are transmitted along Jenkinson's continuous chain. The process of
transmission is grounded in the characteristics of records, and their provenance can be
found in recordkeeping systems or forms of documentation. It is given effect by the
classificatory processes involved in recordkeeping and derived from the processes of
differentiation involved in placing records according to their nature and the available
systems options.
The first task, during the creation or receipt stages, was to differentiate series of records,
which in the Australian governmental context usually meant differentiating between
registry material and standard or form type material which was held in separate sets
throughout the workplace. Working from Jenkinson's classic input-process-output
model of recordkeeping, 40 an understanding of how documents became part of the
record was built up which was simple enough but took account of the complexity of
twentieth century records which could be managed through classification processes. In
going about their business agencies accumulate documents as records in various ways,
the documents themselves take many different forms, and the types of transactions
producing records were tremendously varied. Classing brings some order from the
chaos. 41
In the average Commonwealth government agency, only about ten percent of the
documents created or received ended up on registry files, but they involved documents
that had a naturally deeper level of complexity since they could not be readily hived off
into simple series. They also served a broader range of administrative objects. Within
the registry, files were constructed using a classification structure based on the
transactions of the creating agency and were carefully titled in terms of the action they
would cover, the topic and objective of the action, and any client focus they might have.
This enabled the documents to be placed on a file before action in such a way that the

sequence of action was captured within its covers without registries having to go
through the time consuming process of registering individual documents. The Division's
first rule for filing documents was that the sequence of administrative action should be
strictly observed. 42
The Division was aware that not all material in Australian registries consisted of
documentation of organisational activity, but any other purpose of subject classification
(other than the action as subject) was clearly subordinate. Maclean's second rule for
filing was that there be a clear line of demarcation between files that have the purpose
of 'recording the sequence of action for particular pieces of business' and those created
with the purpose of 'gathering in one place information about particular subjects'.
Information files may have been used in the background when actions were being taken,
or decisions made, but were not products of that action. In case we miss the point of the
special feature of good registry classification systems, Maclean added that 'in a sense,
what the records staff are classing are actions rather than written pieces of information'.
43 Classification in this registry/set type of approach means the appropriate placement
of the documents into series and systems, and subject classing means placement of the
documents into categories of activity. Within the Archives Division's approach to
records management, the evidential status of records, in the ideal, was protected by
attention to form and series outside of the registry, by systematic capture of sequences
of action in the context of a transaction based classing system within the registry, and by
an emphasis on controlled and authorised disposition classing across all recordkeeping.
The
Series
System:
Building
Block
for
the
Continuum
The driving force behind the Division's discourse, judging from the Maclean articles,
was its emphasis on transmission along the custodial chain and the services that are
offered along that chain through a records management role in a registry, in
documenting and controlling the disposition of records outside the registry, or through
the removal of material from systems towards to a final arrangement of closed groups
within the archives. The archivist's contact with current recordkeeping issues needed to
be coordinated with archival acquisition processes. Accessioning practices had to be
worked out afresh in accordance with a Jenkinsonian respect for the characteristics of
the materials being dealt with. The Division worked on the concepts present in
European theory in the faithful belief that if one understood the characteristics of
records, the recordkeeping systems and the placement of records subject to archival
transmission, new and more satisfactory procedures would emerge. Also present was an
understanding of the need to attach basic arrangement and description activities to the
transmission of archives in ways which supported departmental use. In this way the
complexities of administrative change and the shuffling of records for storage purposes
could be managed on an ongoing basis. The goal of the Division was a transmission
process that built upon the stages of transmission and ended with proper documentation
of closed groups of records. 44
Maclean and his staff, however, had given up trying to solve the problems involved in
accessioning within the records group approaches of the earlier texts and current
archival practices. The records group approach was rendered impotent by the internal
structures for mid-twentieth century recordkeeping. As Cornelis Dekker has
commented, trying to arrange such records in accordance with 'dorsal spine' approaches
is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. 45

In handling the complexities they faced, the Division saw no reason in overseas practice
not to strive for a provenance grouping for records creators which operated at a single
layer. Maclean's overseas study tour had suggested to him that, in purely mechanical
details of documentation, fonds and sous-fonds and groups and sub-groups were much
the same thing. While the presence of sub-groups meant a hierarchical form of
inventorying could be imposed, and while the North Americans might express some
philosophical differences in their approach to grouping, documentation at the different
levels and in different countries was essentially the same and the concepts behind the
group variations were substantially based on identifying a convenient level for the
whole of a group in order to set in train the preparation of the inventories in which
records were described. 46
The trip also showed him that the group approach was linked to the preparation of
guides and inventories in ways that transferred massive listing tasks to the archival
authority. The order of magnitude problem so tellingly identified by David Bearman
was well understood by Maclean. While there were backlogs for arrangement and
description within the Archives Division, they were not the same size as those that
existed in the USA, for example, where the size of the problem boggled Maclean's
mind. 47 It was perceived that Jenkinson's custodial interpretation of moral and physical
defence within a record group strategy made most sense within its own concern with
'dead' groups, especially whenever the archival repository held most of the records from
the group that would be received in custody. It was even practical when only small
quantities of material were being dealt with. It was apparent to Maclean, however, that
even his own office's small backlogs set up impossible work program loads. 48
Although later publicity has made it appear that Australian Archives' major contribution
to archival systems has been in handling administrative (structural) change, the
Division's original contribution to records system study can be found in its examination
of the way archives could be fragmented in their internal structure by that change or by
the systematised storage practices of mid-twentieth century recordkeeping. 49 Staff
members analysed the effect on the structure of record series of the movement of
records from one series of records to another because of administrative change, or the
removal of sets of records from their current context in accordance with the need to trim
inactive records for the sake of a recordkeeping system's efficiency, a process which
included transfer to archival repositories. 'Sets' of records came to be viewed as
different from series, sometimes being a subclass created by the structured removal of
records from a series and sometimes being a superior class, consisting of the
amalgamation of records from different series, and this view had actually replaced the
series view until Scott turned the attention back to series with a methodology which
handled this form of complexity by series registration, using cross references to
previous and subsequent series. 50
The most notable result of the Division's exploration of archival concepts was Scott's
system of control for the transmission of records, a system which could be integrated
with, and incorporated into, current recordkeeping processes. Scott's discovery came
after the creation of the Commonwealth Archives Office, at a time when, according to
Ian Maclean, morale was sinking partly as a result of the enormity of the tasks ahead of
them and the failure to gain additional resources. 51 Ian Maclean, in a retrospective
comment, claimed that as Chief Archivist it took him 'not a minute' to consider the
proposition for the new system proposed by Peter Scott when it was presented to him by

his deputy, Keith Penny. For Maclean it provided the final building block for the
integration of current and so-called intermediate records management and 'the
foundation for the comprehensive range of activities and coverage that distinguishes
Australian Archives'. 52
Part of the discovery's origins lay in the Office's understanding of registry control
mechanisms, a point made clear in Chris Hurley's article elsewhere in this publication.
Scott's agency registration processes provided a measure of stability to methods for
documenting administrative change. The series registration approach gave a way of
linking records to record creating entities and of linking related series of records,
including the listing of the component series within a recordkeeping system. Maclean,
however, also notes that it was a product of the longstanding pursuit of ideal
classificatory techniques which he and Keith Penny had been pursuing. 53 The
Division's study of records transmission within and through the various stages of
custodianship paid a special dividend.
The
Re-emergence
of
Recordkeeping
Theory
The series system was a product of the Archives Division's discourse, which in turn was
based upon archival concepts that had also given rise to an alternative discourse. Within
the alternative discourse, which has been the dominant one in the USA, the archief
became the archival collection, provenance became the organisational structures in
which records were created, classification became arrangement, the intention to keep a
record became confused with notions of permanent retention, and one essential
characteristic of archival materials stood out they were things in special repositories
(or at least designated for such a location). Today the alternative discourses could
probably be categorized as the 'documenting' approach and the collecting approach
respectively, although neither exists uninfluenced by the other.
The conceptual base for the 'documenting' approach was not, however, an antipodean
freak, and in the mid twentieth century was well known, and well understood, in the
USA. Within it, the fonds was the entire government record, provenance related to
records creation processes and the custodial chain through which records were
transmitted, and the essential characteristic of archives was their connection to the
activities which gave rise to them. Ernst Posner, noticing the emergence of elements of
this strand of archival thought in 1940 pointed in advance to the Archives Division's
discourse when he concluded an article with the following passage:
If all the public records of a nation are one sole undivided fonds, the agencies that are
destined to receive and keep them ultimately will be justified in claiming the right to
give their advice as to how the files of government offices should be organized and kept
from the beginning so as to insure a satisfactory original arrangement that will also be
suitable for retention by the archives agencies. We may assume that gradually the
archivists will become the nation's experts who must be consulted in all questions of
public record making and record keeping and likewise become the trustees who will
safeguard the written monuments of the past, of the present day, and of the future. 54
Thus, Maclean, in the 1950s, was not being irrational when he proclaimed his office's
ideas as the ideas of the future and the basis for the development of an archival
profession. In the 1950s articles on recordkeeping theory and practice were not
uncommon in archival literature and even the US National Archives and Records

Service was internally debating its own role in relation to current recordkeeping, in
ways which made some connection to the new discourse. 55 The concepts are not alien
to the archival profession and have had various influences on archival practice in most
countries. What was alien to most archival cultures was the strategic force with which
the Archives Division and then the Commonwealth Archives Office pursued its
understandings within a wholehearted focus upon mid-twentieth century records.
Accordingly, the Commonwealth Archives Office for several decades appeared to be
something of a maverick institution on the global scene, not really in touch with
archival theory. It was a disconcerting presence because of its own satisfaction with its
system and with its strategies during a period when so many other archival institutions
were creating the order of magnitude problems mentioned earlier. 56
On the one hand the Commonwealth Archives Office was addressing issues in ways that
are becoming more commonplace in the 1990s, and a study of its practices has a new
relevance outside of the framework of the discourse. On the other hand, its discourse is
conceptually traditional and its achievements were a product of chance. The approach
had been formed in the mid-twentieth century when the new concept was the proactive
government archival institution with an interest in current recordkeeping. It had a
charter (and was given resources) to carry out the custodial role for records up to and
including World War II. It was able to use recently developed survey tactics to make a
large dint in the corpus of records for which it was responsible. In a professional manner
it then set about analysing mid-twentieth century records and was doing so well in
advance of other archival institutions. It was, however, a product of its times, and one
can go too far in labelling it the first 'postcustodial' institution. With this qualification,
the links through to new models for archival thought are quite striking. In two cases, the
'characteristics of recorded information' and 'recordkeeping systems' the new models are
developing and extending the concepts. In the third instance, classification, as I will try
to show below, there is still a lot we can learn from the Archives Division's discourse, if
we care to do so.
While David Bearman is the only present day archivist consistently developing ideas
across all three areas of study nominated by Maclean, 57 a number of writers in recent
years have added to our understanding of archival documents. While the terminology
may vary, such documents are increasingly being seen as those records which can be
identified by their nature as evidence of social and organizational activity, wherever
they are located and whenever they are created which within electronic systems
requires an intention to keep a record in the time-honoured sense of Muller, Feith and
Fruin's definition cited above. Such records are the subject of recordkeeping theory,
which, as my colleague Sue McKemmish has noted, is increasingly focusing upon:

the nature of records of social and organisational activity

their documentary forms and structures, especially as they are affected by new
technologies

their authoritative nature as a means of control, of accountability, of governing


social and organisational relationships and transferring culture through space
and over time, and as evidence of social and business activity, and

their informational nature, provided by their content, structure and context,


including their contexts of creation and use social, symbolic, functional,
organisational, and technological. 58

The renewed understanding of the authoritative and informational nature of records of


activity is leading to a new approach to provenance which is as much functional as
structural, emphasizing the functionality of records at the time of their creation and
aspiring to link that functionality to the functions of an archival institution and the
retention of a social and organisational account of events through the transmission of
the archief. Australians have probably taken the lead in developing the continuum
approach because of the success of the series system as a basic building block. While
Jay Atherton's continuum re-shuffled the components of the life cycle theories of earlier
decades and revitalised them by emphasizing the service components, the carriage of
evidentiality across space and time has been the conceptual underpinning for Australian
notions of a continuum.
The 1950s interest in recordkeeping systems has been relatively dormant until revived
by David Bearman, at least in terms of the published literature. 59 Within Maclean's
writing the recordkeeping system is the fulcrum for the other major areas of study, the
point which gives effect to an understanding of the characteristics of records and the
classificatory processes that are needed to cope with the plurality of recorded
information. There is more than a hint in Maclean's writings that he believed only the
pre-action style of control of a registry system created levels of evidentiality sufficient
to qualify it as a recordkeeping system in comparison with other records systems.
Bearman gives all this a twist when he argues that it is the recordkeeping system which
is the locus of provenance. There are parallels through to Maclean in Bearman's
important observation that information systems are not necessarily recordkeeping
systems. Maclean, within registry systems, argued for distinctions between background
information files (which of course could be used in a transactional context), and
'sequence of action' files, which were purely transactional, although of course they
could subsequently serve informational purposes based on their evidentiality. 60
In relation to classificatory processes it is Bearman who is less explicit in drawing
together practical recordkeeping routines within a theoretical framework. Nevertheless
his writings are filled with references to processes of placement and differentiation,
including explanations of when and where to capture records. These processes take us
into the systematic recognition of categories of business which was the basic grounding
for the Archives Division's contribution to Australian registry systems. 61
The placement of records into a recordkeeping continuum depends upon organisational
analysis in the writings of both Maclean and Bearman. Once the continuum is set in
train, organisational analysis continues to be relevant to other aspects of placement
including

placement for action and through gateways

distribution for use including access permissions and refusals

reliability checks and establishment of audit trails

movement within and through work groups and corporate information bases

placement for storage, including migration through system changes

the establishment of 'sequence of action' relationships between documents


connected to the same business activity, and

processes related to the ongoing appraisal of records to determine if they have


continuing value and to give effect to the determinations.

The continuum model provides the structure for the placement of records through
current and future activities and systems. The characteristics of the records, the
recordkeeping system, and the ordering processes operate in an interconnected manner
across space and through time. If I seem to be labouring the point, it is because the
recordkeeping continuum is liable to be misinterpreted as a version of the life cycle
concept simply because both encompass current recordkeeping processes. A continuum
approach is very different conceptually, and in practical terms its impact upon electronic
recordkeeping practices can be substantial. Approaches based on creation, maintenance
and disposition refer to only some, not all, of the ordering processes involved in
recordkeeping, and do not make up a continuum.
Maclean has given a recent description of the origins of the continuum, the development
of which he traced to the records reduction campaign carried out by the Archives
Division from 1950:
Thus began a transition in Australia from British/Continental archives administration in
the traditional sense, with the primarily 'cultural' orientation, to what is nowadays
sometimes called 'the continuum' of (public) records administration, with its emphasis
both on administrative efficiency and also the safe-keeping of a cultural end-product . . .
62
One can question whether the continuum approach developed in the Archives Division
adequately served social goals, and ask whether a national archives institution should
also serve cultural goals outside the continuum. However the Commonwealth Archives
Office in time may come to be seen as the first national archival institution to take noncustodial aspects present in archival concepts and use them to get out of the 'historical
shunt'. The development of a 'documenting' approach within the Archives Division took
it beneath the physical world of shelving and the management of records. Aspects of
European theory were applied to mid-twentieth century recordkeeping processes and in
the course of doing so concepts were articulated which are re-emerging as the
profession, at a global level, has begun to gear up a new discourse on electronic
recordkeeping. As the new theory develops it will need to gather new strategic force and
strive to achieve credibility in the Networked Age. It will also need to be grounded in
understandings of the characteristics of records, focused upon knowledge of
recordkeeping systems, and dependent upon the classificatory processes of
recordkeeping.

NOTES

1. Ian Maclean, 'Australian Experience in Records and Archives Management', The American Archivist,
vol.22,
no.4,
Oct.
1959,
p.389.
2.
Maclean,
in
The
American
Archivist,
p.399.
3. See Ian Maclean, 'Comments for Dr Grover Following Visit to the National Archives and Records
Services (Based in discussions with Dr Bahmer)', First Report on Overseas Scholarship Programme
Containing a General Description of Scholarship Activities and Comments on Archives Institutions
Visited,
Canberra,
1959,
Appendix
1.
4. There is no doubt, from Maclean's frequent references, that Keith Penny was a strong contributor to the
discourse set out in this essay. Many others contributed, including Muller, Feith and Fruin and Jenkinson
via the double hermeneutic of re-interpretation. This essay is concerned with the concepts as
communicated in Maclean's two essays not with their source, nor for that matter with their strategic force,
or their continuing status within, or spreading from, the Commonwealth Archives Office and its
successor,
Australian
Archives.
5. An introduction to that decade can be found in Frank Upward, 'Association amongst archivists during
the 1950s', in Peopling a Profession: Papers from the Fourth Forum on Australian Library History, eds.
Frank
Upward
and
Jean
Whyte,
Ancora
Press,
Monash
University,
1991.
6. Ian Maclean briefly discusses these aspects in 'An Analysis of Jenskinson's "Manual of Archive
Administration" in the light of Australian Experience', Essays in memory of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, edited
for the Society of Archivists by Albert E.J. Hollaender, 1962, p.137, and in The American Archivist,
p.394.
7.
Maclean,
in
The
American
Archivist,
p.389.
8.
Maclean,
in
The
American
Archivist,
p.388.
9. Maclean, First Report on Overseas Scholarship Programme, Appendix 1, p.1.
10. I do not know how many exceptions there were, but staff at The Commonwealth Archives Office,
Victorian Branch, received in-house training from one of them in the 1970s, Allan Skerman, who
transferred the ethos of the registrar's scheme so well that many of us left for records and information
management positions within other government departments, universities, and private enterprise.
11. Quoted by Maclean, in Essays in Memory of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, p.129.
12.
Maclean,
in
Essays
in
Memory
of
Sir
Hilary
Jenkinson,
p.129.
13. Arthur Leavitt (trans.), Muller, Feith and Fruin, Manual for the Arrangement and Description of
Archives, New York, 1940, p.13. (T.R. Schellenberg recognized the mis-translation, but then committed
his own indiscretion by equating an archief with records of a registry office: Modern Archives, Principles
and
Techniques,
Melbourne,
1956,
p.12.)
14. Leavett justified the use of the term 'archival collection' on the grounds that the word archief was not
used in the same singular sense in English. I do not know to what he thought Jenkinson's lengthy section
on Archive Making in his Manual referred, or perhaps that section was too English to be read in the USA.
15. e.g. Sir Hilary Jenkinson, 'Some Reflections on T.R. Schellenberg: Modern Archives: Principles and
Techniques' in Selected Writings of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, eds. Roger Ellis and Peter Walne, Alan Sutton
Publishing
Ltd,
Gloucester,
1980,
p.339-43.
16. Hilary Jenkinson, A Manual of Archive Administration, London, 1937, p.8-11.
17.
Jenkinson,
A
Manual,
p.11.
18.
Jenkinson,
A
Manual,
p.83.
19. Maclean's two essays have to be read together for this conclusion to emerge. The Jenkinson essay
does not make as many strong references to current recordkeeping processes, but cross-refers to the
earlier
article
in
The
American
Archivist.
20. Gerald Fischer, 'Letting the Archival Dust Settle: Some Remarks on the Record Group Concept', The
Journal
of
the
Society
of
Archivists,
vol.4,
no.8,
Oct.
1973,
p.644.
21. Jenkinsonian precepts about objectivity and the naturalness of the record are re-emerging in Canadian
archival literature. On the surface the Australian 'continuum' is subjective and 'un' natural, yet, as Glenda
Acland has noted, it is a logical extension of Jenkinson's ideas. The issues of objectivity and naturalness
are discussed in Terry Cook, 'Electronic Records, Paper Minds', Archives and Manuscripts, vol.22, no.2,
1994
(forthcoming).
22. David Bearman, 'Diplomatics, Weberian Bureaucracy, and the Management of Electronic Records in
Europe and America', The American Archivist, vol.55, Winter 1952, pp.168-73.
23. Ian Maclean, 'Trends in Organising Modern Public Records with Special Reference to Classification
Needs',
Archives
and
Manuscripts,
vol.1,
no.3,
Dec.
1956,
pp.2-6.
24.
Maclean,
in
The
American
Archivist,
p.401-03.
25. One problem with the notion of internal and external structure is that its placement of the agent of
creation can be ambiguous. Is that agency internalized within the recordkeeping system or external to it.

Where does the actor end, and the act begin? Hurley's approach offers a way out of the question itself?
26. In Sue McKemmish's chapter in this publication, Scott's approach to provenance is discussed. The
continuity of the Archives Division's discourse on functional provenance (associated with archival theory
of
Northern
Europe),
and
the
series
system
is
shown.
27. Michel Duchein, 'Theoretical Principles and Practical Problems of Respect Des Fonds in Archival
Science',
Archivaria
16,
Summer
1983,
p.77.
28. The fonds is directed definitionally to the whole, at the administrative body at a legal, rather than an
actual, level. This legal 'fiction' can then be further fictionalized by grouping related organizations, or
separating out organisations from within the onion rings of legal existence. It is not very helpful to
identify (as the Commonwealth series system does) the fonds at the level of the outer layer of the onion
the
whole
governmental
level.
29. See Cornelis Dekker, 'La bible archivistique nerlandaise et ce qu'il en est advenu', in Archival
Science on the Threshold of the Year 2000, ed. Oddo Bucci: with the collaboration of Rosa Marisa
Borraccini
Verducci,
University
of
Macerata,
Ancona
1992.
30. This is my translation of Cornelis Dekker's french version of Rule 16 (a quadruple hermeneutic!). I do
not read Dutch, but Leavett's translation is obviously alien to the original. Compare Dekker in Archival
Science, p.73, with Leavett, Manual for Archives, p.52. It is Dekker who uses the french word
'classement' (not 'l'arrangement') to capture the meaning of the Dutch word 'ordinen'.
31.
Dekker,
in
Archival
Science,
p.72.
32.
Maclean,
in
Essays
in
Memory
of
Sir
Hilary
Jenkinson,
p.144.
33. The newness can be found in part in the manner in which the Division examined open systems of their
own era, rather than closed systems from previous eras, an approach which is now seen as essential for
the management of electronic records. Jenkinson's Manual does something similar in its last section but
not with the same intensity, and is not as dominated by notions of functional provenance.
34.
See
note
30,
above.
35. A good example of the manner in which arrangement usurps the meanings of classification is T.R.
Schellenberg's 'Archival Principles of Arrangement', The American Archivist, vol.24, Jan. 1961, p.11-24.
In that article Schellenberg begins by using classification and arrangement as synonyms, and then sets out
processes of arrangement which reflect inventorying processes (groups, sub-groups, series and items).
36. Specifically, Maclean argued that Schellenberg's approach to records management was 'positive and
rationalistic' and that differentiation should be 'relatively natural', derived from the 'administrative origins
and forms of the units and series concerned'. Some American archivists argue that, within electronic
recordkeeping, records management disappears into the business processes. It is a superficial argument.
Simplistic notions of records management classification may disappear, but the ordering processes of
recordkeeping become even more important and need to be managed. (See Maclean in Archives and
Manuscripts, vol.1, no.3 for his criticisms of Schellenberg, and note 35 above).
37.
Maclean,
The
American
Archivist,
p.401.
38. Maclean's ideas on classification are set out in The American Archivist, p.399-416.
39. Jay Atherton, 'From Life Cycle to Continuum: Some Thoughts on the Records Management
Archives Relationship', Archivaria 21, Winter 1985/86, pp.43-51. The quote is from page 48. A useful
summary of the Atherton article, pointing out how a continuum approach offers bridges between different
information specializations, is offered in Kent Haworth 'Reclaiming Archival Principles' in Archival
Science
on
the
Threshold
of
the
Year
2000,
op.cit.,
p.153-4.
40. Maclean, in The American Archivist, p.401, and Essays in Memory of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, p.130.
41.
Maclean,
in
The
American
Archivist,
p.403.
42. This paragraph is entirely constructed from Maclean's essay in The American Archivist.
43.
Maclean,
in
The
American
Archivist,
p.402.
44. This is a major theme within Maclean's essay in Essays in Memory of Sir Hilary Jenkinson.
45. Dekker, in Archival Science on the Threshold of the Year 2000, p.74.
46. Maclean discusses grouping in his essay on Jenkinson's Manual from page 141.
47. Maclean, First Report on Overseas Scholarship Programme, Appendix 1, p.1.
48. Maclean made this point in the letter to Grover (note 3) and in the Jenkinson essay, p.144.
49. Maclean, in Essays in Memory of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, p.134 set out the debt to Jenkinson in terms of
analysing the nature of administrative change. I am not aware that much was added to that analysis
within the discourse which this essay examines. Australian archivists analysed the effect of administrative
change upon mid-twentieth century recordkeeping systems, rather than the nature of those changes
themselves (i.e. they gave practical attention to known ideas). As Dekker's article (cited several times
above) suggests, there was nothing unique about the Australian situation. Australians were studying the
problems ahead of archivists in countries with similar recordkeeping landscapes (such as The
Netherlands).

50. The set/series analysis is set out by Maclean in Essays in Memory of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, at
numerous
points,
e.g.
pp.134-6,
p.139,
and
pp.146-8.
51. See Ian Maclean, obituary for Jim Gibbney, Archives and Manuscripts, vol.17, no.2, Nov. 1989,
p.127.
52. Ian Maclean, in a News Note on the retirement of Peter Scott, Archives and Manuscripts, vol.18, no.1,
May
1990,
p.12.
53.
ibid.
54. Ernst Posner, 'Some Aspects of Archival Developments Since the French Revolution'. in A Modern
Archives Reader, eds. Maygene Daniels and Timothy Walch, National Archives and Records Service,
Washington
D.C.,
1984,
p.14.
55. This was the reason Maclean was invited to make suggestions to Dr Grover. Dr Bahmer in 1958 was
apparently investigating the suitability of the record group approach for modern records, and was
considering whether the existing system should be closed off (for source: see note 3 above).
56. The strongest of critiques of the resource problem was made by David Bearman in 'Archival
Methods', Archives and Museum Informatics Technical Report no.9, Pittsburgh 1991. (First published
1989).
57. David Bearman's essays on electronic recordkeeping have recently been brought together in
Electronic Evidence: Strategies for Managing Records in Contemporary Organizations, Archives and
Museum
Informatics,
Pittsburgh,
1994.
58. Sue McKemmish, 'The Education of Records Managers: How is the Education System Preparing
Records Managers for the Future', in Records Management in the Public Sector and Corporate
Environment,
Papers
of
the
PICS
Conference,
Melbourne
1994.
59. In Australia much of the interest in recordkeeping systems is contained in background information
collected for, and used in, agency and series documentation. David Bearman re-establishes this study at
the forefront of archival endeavour in his article 'Record-keeping Systems' in Archivaria 36, Autumn
1993,
p.16-36.
60. Bearman discusses recordkeeping and information systems on page 17 of his Archivaria article (note
59 above). Maclean discusses the difference between action files and information files in The American
Archivist,
p.402.
61. The nexus between organisational analysis and ordering processes within Maclean's work is
illustrated in note 36 above, and is an animating force throughout his essay in The American Archivist.
62. Ian Maclean, Obituary Notice for Sir Harold White, Archives and Manuscripts, vol.20, no.2, Nov.
1992, p.196.

1998. All Rights Reserved. Licence: Limited to on-line viewing and the making of
one (1) printout for off-line reading purposes only

Continuo documental
Por Alejandro Delgado
Gmez.
Definicin

Es el Modelo grfico que explica las complejas relaciones que existen entre las
entidades documentales, su capacidad probatoria, los agentes que gestionan y utilizan
dichas entidades, y las funciones ejercidas por esos agentes, mediante la presentacin de
tales relaciones en cuatro dimensiones concntricas, correspondientes a las actividades
de creacin, captura, organizacin y comunicacin (pluralizacin) de los documentos.
Una adaptacin del modelo original de Frank Upward, con breves textos explicativos,
en: http://john.curtin.edu.au/society/australia/
Estudio

Para muchos el modelo explicativo de los archivos y sus documentos ms exhaustivo y


programtico que existe en la actualidad es el llamado del continuo de los documentos,
procedente, como es bien sabido, de la tradicin archivstica australiana, desarrollada,
hasta cierto punto, al margen de las dems tradiciones occidentales.
Antecedentes

Aunque el modelo del continuo apareci, en su expresin ms conocida, en 1996, puede


rastrearse un pensamiento ante litteram desde los aos sesenta del siglo veinte. En el
contexto de unos archivos de la Commonwealth confrontados con la Biblioteca
Nacional para obtener identidad propia, sin grandes volmenes de documentos
histricos, pero anidados en una realidad administrativa compleja y mudable, el
archivero Ian Maclean, uno de los abuelos del pensamiento del continuo, comenz a
desarrollar una estrategia, que se mostr exitosa, para distanciarse de la nocin de
archivo como depsito histrico y hacerse con el control de los documentos
administrativos [1]. Parte del xito de esta estrategia se debe a la invencin, por parte
del otro gran abuelo del pensamiento del continuo, Peter Scott, del llamado sistema
australiano de serie, un procedimiento descriptivo que discrimina la descripcin del
documento de la descripcin de sus contextos, de tal modo que, posteriormente, es
posible establecer mltiples relaciones contextuales en entornos burocrticos mudables
[2]. Estos primeros desarrollos dejan profundamente daados el concepto de fondo [3] y
el principio de procedencia, de los que se demuestra que son constructos histricamente
determinados que no funcionan adecuadamente ni representan correctamente realidades
complejas.
El esfuerzo pionero de Maclean y Scott fue continuado por practicantes y tericos como
Glenda Acland, Sue McKemmish o Frank Upward, crecientemente preocupados por un
marco de irresponsabilidad que obligaba a los archiveros a definir modelos en los que la

responsabilidad quedara garantizada. Acland, por ejemplo, anim a la comunidad


archivstica a desprenderse de su rol como enterradores de documentos [4];
McKemmish explor la naturaleza elusiva del documento y su inclusin en marcos
sociales ms amplios [5]; pero fue Frank Upward quien con ms empeo se aplic a la
tarea de desarrollar un modelo por completo inclusivo, que superara el modelo del ciclo
de vida, y que incorporara todos los archivos de la sociedad en un marco de
responsabilidad dada por diversos niveles de evidencia. En 1993 ya haba explorado
esta necesidad, aunque, quiz consciente de que an no era posible modificar
radicalmente el paradigma en uso, introdujo al menos la nocin de rango de vida, una
suerte de continuo in nuce [6]. En 1996 public, en dos partes, y basndose en la
sociologa de la estructuracin de Anthony Giddens [7], su conocido modelo del
continuo de los documentos [8].
El modelo

El modelo, en su versin original, se compone de cuatro dimensiones, representadas de


manera concntrica, pero en permanente interaccin entre ellas: crear, capturar,
organizar y pluralizar. Adems, presenta cuatro ejes: el eje de la identidad, el de la
transaccionalidad, el de la evidencialidad y el de los contenedores de gestin de
documentos, para cada uno de los cuales se definen a su vez cuatro niveles de
especificidad, tambin concntricos. As, el eje de la identidad parte del actor, pasa por
la unidad, por la organizacin, y termina en la institucin. El eje de la transaccionalidad
pasa por la transaccin, la actividad, la funcin y el propsito. El eje de la
evidencialidad, por la traza, la evidencia, la memoria individual o corporativa, y la
memoria social. Por ltimo, al eje de los contenedores de gestin de documentos le
concierne, desde la capa ms interior a la exterior, el documento, el documento
archivstico, el archivo de la organizacin o la persona y los archivos de la sociedad.
En una lectura alternativa, las capas interiores de cada eje actor, transaccin, traza,
documento- se relacionan con la dimensin de crear; las segundas capas unidad,
actividad, evidencia, documento archivstico- se relacionan con la dimensin de
capturar; las terceras capas organizacin, funcin, memoria individual o corporativa,
archivo- se relacionan con la dimensin de organizar; y las capas ms exteriores
institucin, propsito, memoria social, archivos- se relacionan con la dimensin de
pluralizar. Pero esto no puede afirmarse sin matices: en realidad, cada uno de los
componentes puede adquirir relaciones no previstas con los dems, interactuar de
diferentes maneras, y encontrarse en perpetuo movimiento.
El modelo grfico de Upward no puede leerse en ningn caso de manera lineal. Su
mayor virtud consiste precisamente en apoyarse en los procesos, incluidos los propios
procesos archivsticos, para establecer relaciones variables entre funciones, agentes y
objetos, a efectos de garantizar evidencia y memoria con el fin de apoyar la
responsabilidad.
Desarrollos posteriores

El primer modelo del continuo de los documentos ha sufrido posteriores refinamientos y


aadidos, incluida su reutilizacin para elaborar conceptualmente modelos del continuo
de la informacin, de los sistemas de la informacin y de la publicacin [9]. Aunque
Frank Upward no lo ha hecho explcito, un modelo del continuo del conocimiento
debera ser incorporable a este marco conceptual, y el propio autor insina la capacidad
del modelo para reorganizar el conocimiento:
El continuo proporciona un modo de explicar realidades complejas en relacin con lo
que se sola considerar como dimensiones separadas del espacio y el tiempo. Como
visin, presenta una aproximacin en mltiples capas y mltiples facetas que puede
utilizarse para reorganizar el conocimiento y desplegar habilidades. Es ms acorde con
las comunicaciones electrnicas y el cambio tecnolgico que la visin del ciclo de vida.
Puede capacitarnos para considerar cmo extender la tensin en las estructuras para
impedir que se colapsen. [10]
En lnea con esta percepcin del modelo como marco conceptual, el continuo de la
informacin se justifica en los siguientes trminos:
Los documentos tienen que gestionarse en el sentido de la gestin de la informacin,
en la que el nfasis est en el modo en que el objeto es representado, recordado y
diseminado. Este modelo proporciona una visin general de la gestin de la informacin
que puede guiar las percepciones acerca de los componentes de gestin de la
informacin de la gestin de documentos. [11]
El modelo del continuo de sistemas de informacin se justifica del siguiente modo:
Los documentos tienen que gestionarse en el sentido de la gestin de datos, con nfasis
sobre el modelado de datos [entidades de datos, sus atributos y relaciones], y el flujo
conectado de objetos ... Los sistemas de gestin de documentos son un tipo de sistema
de informacin en el que el sistema como instrumento de poder es particularmente
evidente [12].
Y el continuo de la publicacin en estos trminos:
Los documentos tienen que gestionarse en el sentido de la publicacin, en el que el
nfasis se pone sobre el alcance y la autoridad del objeto. Este modelo proporciona una
visin general de los procesos implicados en el hacer algo pblico, o en protegerlo del
acceso no autorizado. Existe una obvia conexin entre estos procesos y el acceso a los
documentos. Uno de los roles de la gestin de documentos es conseguir el alcance
adecuado de los documentos, empujndolos a los adecuados tipos de unin entre
espacio y tiempo, o permitindoles ser empujados a las regiones adecuadas [13].
Un ejemplo

Intentemos representar o explicar un expediente convencional, por ejemplo, de solicitud


de licencia de obras, desde la perspectiva del modelo del continuo de los documentos.
Crear

La dimensin Crear se refiere al momento en el que el documento an no ha entrado


en el sistema de gestin documental de la organizacin que tiene que gestionar la
licencia, aunque puede estar en el sistema de gestin de documentos del individuo que
va a solicitarla. Este individuo es un actor que tiene una traza, digamos, la imagen
de la casa que le gustara tener. Para obtener la autorizacin redacta una instancia, que
an no ha enviado a la organizacin, que es un documento. En este momento puede que
an realice diversas transacciones: con los miembros de su familia, con un arquitecto,
etc. Existe una transaccin definitiva que implica el paso a la siguiente dimensin: la
presentacin de la instancia y todos los documentos adjuntos en el Ayuntamiento que ha
de tramitar la licencia.
Capturar

De este modo, entramos en la dimensin de Capturar. La unidad organizativa de


Registro General estampa un sello y una fecha en la instancia, de modo que sta queda
capturada dentro del sistema de gestin de documentos de la organizacin y se convierte
en documento archivstico (un record en ingls) que desencadena una actividad
intervenir en el urbanismo local. La borrosa traza o esbozo que tena el individuo, el
actor, en mente, deviene en evidencia, en documento con valor probatorio.
Organizar

La dimensin organizar se refiere a los procesos de gestin de documentos. Durante ella


se ejecutan tales procesos dentro de una organizacin y, si procede, dentro del servicio o
unidad de Archivo. No obstante, lo habitual es que sean responsabilidad de toda la
organizacin, que interviene en todo o en parte, para ejecutar una funcin que le ha sido
encomendada (gestionar el urbanismo). El documento archivstico pasa a formar parte
de la memoria de la organizacin, y esto se consigue agrupndolo con otros documentos
en el archivo.
Pluralizar

La dimensin Pluralizar se refiere a la interaccin de los documentos de este archivo


con los de otros archivos, por ejemplo, el del individuo que gener el documento, el del
arquitecto, los de otros archivos locales, etc. De ah que los documentos pasen de una
organizacin, el Ayuntamiento, a una institucin, por ejemplo los archivos de las
organizaciones pertenecientes a la Federacin Espaola de Municipios y Provincias.
Este conglomerado son los archivos, que dejan memoria para toda la sociedad, no slo
para la organizacin, de un propsito de amplio alcance, digamos la voluntad de buen
hacer en la gestin del suelo.

Otros puntos de vista

Tambin podemos representar el expediente de otra manera. Desde el punto de vista del
eje de la Identidad: aqul ha pasado por el actor o individuo, por la unidad de
Registro, por la organizacin Ayuntamiento y por la institucin FEMP.
Desde el punto de vista del eje de la Transaccionalidad, el expediente pasa por
transacciones o unidades de comunicacin mnimas con significado, por actividades que
son concreciones de una funcin, por esa funcin encomendada de manera abstracta a
una organizacin, y por el propsito social amplio que subyace a la funcin.
Desde el punto de vista del eje de la Evidencialidad, el expediente comienza siendo
una difusa traza en la mente de un individuo, deviene evidencia al incorporarse a un
sistema de gestin de documentos, esa evidencia se convierte en memoria organizativa
al incorporarse al archivo del Ayuntamiento, y en memoria social cuando ese archivo
entra en interaccin con otros archivos.
Por ltimo, desde el punto de vista del eje de los contenedores de gestin de
documentos, en principio el actor crea un documento, que se convierte en documento
archivstico al incorporarse a un sistema. Ese documento contribuye, junto con otros
documentos, a crear el archivo de la organizacin, y este archivo, al interactuar con
otros, tambin contribuye a crear los archivos de la sociedad.
Notas

1) Confrntese, por ejemplo, Upward, Frank: In Search of the Continuum: Ian


Macleans Australian Experience': Essays on Recordkeeping. Publicado por primera
vez en: The Records Continuum: Ian Maclean and Australian Archives first fifty years.
Clayton: Ancora Press in association with Australian Archives, 1994. Tambin
disponible en: http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/fuptrc.html
(consulta: 21-1-2012).
2) Confrntese, por ejemplo, Hurley, Chris: The Australian (`Series) System: An
Exposition. Publicado por primera vez en: The Records Continuum: Ian Maclean and
Australian Archives first fifty years. Clayton: Ancora Press in association with
Australian Archives, 1994. Tambin disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/chtrc1.html (consulta: 21-12012).
3) Se utiliza el trmino fondo para hacer referencia tanto a lo que en el contexto
anglosajn se entiende por fonds, como a lo que se entiende por records group y archive
group, bsicamente constructos conceptuales, no realidades fsicas, con diferentes
finalidades, pero con voluntad totalizadora.
4) Confrntese, por ejemplo, Acland, Glenda: Archivist Keeper, Undertaker or
Auditor?. En: Archives and Manuscripts, vol. 19, n. 1 (May 1991). P. 91-95; Managing

the Record Rather than the Relic. En: Archives and Manuscripts, vol. 20, n. 1 (May
1991). P. 9-15; McKemmish, Sue; Acland, Glenda: Archivists at Risk: Accountability
and the Role of the Professional Society. En: Archives at Risk: Accountability,
Vulnerability and Credibility, 1999 Annual Conference of the Australian Society of
Archivists, July 1999 (consulta: 21-1-2012). Disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/archive1.html.
5) Confrntese, por ejemplo, McKemmish, Sue: Are Records Ever Actual?. Publicado
por primera vez en: The Records Continuum: Ian Maclean and Australian Archives first
fifty years. Clayton: Ancora Press in association with Australian Archives, 1994.
Tambin disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/smcktrc.html (consulta: 211-2012).
6) Upward, Frank: Institutionalising the archival document: A republishing. En:
Archives and Social Studies: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, vol. 1, n. 0, p.
467-493 (consulta: 21-1-2012). Disponible en:
http://socialstudies.cartagena.es/images/PDF/no0/upward_institutionalizing.pdf .
7) La obra de Anthony Giddens que ms ha infludo en el pensamiento del continuo es
La constitucin de la sociedad: bases para la teora de la estructuracin. Buenos Aires:
Amorrortu, 1995.
8) Upward, Frank: Structuring the Records Continuum - Part One: Postcustodial
principles and properties. Publicado por primera vez en: Archives and Manuscripts, vol.
24, n. 2 (1996) (consulta: 21-1-2012). Disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/recordscontinuum/fupp1.htm
l ; Structuring the Records Continuum, Part Two: Structuration Theory and
Recordkeeping. Publicado por primera vez en: Archives and Manuscripts, vol. 25, n. 1
(1997) (consulta: 21-1-2012). Disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/recordscontinuum/fupp2.htm
l . Una descripcin posterior y ms refinada del modelo puede encontrarse en:
McKemmish, Sue: Placing Records Continuum Theory and Practice. En: Archival
Science, vol 1, n. 4 (December 2001), p. 333-359.
9) Upward, Frank: Modelling the continuum as paradigm shift in recordkeeping and
archiving processes, and beyond a personal reflection. Publicado por primera vez en:
Records Management Journal(November 2001). Tambin disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/Frank%20U%20RMJ
%202001.pdf (consulta: 21-1-2012).
10) Upward, Frank, cit.
11) Upward, Frank, cit.

12) Upward, Frank, cit.


13) Upward, Frank, cit.
Referencias

ACLAND, Glenda. Archivist Keeper, Undertaker or Auditor?. En:


Archives and Manuscripts, 1991, vol. 19, n. 1, p. 91-95.

Managing the Record Rather than the Relic. En: Archives and
Manuscripts, 1991, vol. 20, n. 1, p. 9-15.

CENTRE for Organisational and Social Informatics (COSI). En: Monash


University. Faculty of Information Technology [sitio web]. [Consulta:
2014-09-29]. Disponible en:
http://infotech.monash.edu/research/centres/cosi/

MCKEMMISH, Sue. Are Records Ever Actual?. En: The Records


Continuum: Ian Maclean and Australian Archives first fifty years.
Clayton: Ancora Press in association with Australian Archives, 1994.
Reproduccin digital disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/smcktrc.ht
ml

Placing Records Continuum Theory and Practice. En: Archival


Science, 2001, vol 1, n. 4, p. 333-359.

MCKEMMISH, Sue; ACLAND, Glenda. Archivists at Risk: Accountability


and the Role of the Professional Society. En: Archives at Risk:
Accountability, Vulnerability and Credibility, 1999 Annual Conference
of the Australian Society of Archivists, July 1999 [en lnea]. [Consulta:
2012-01-21]. Disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/archive1.h
tml

RECORDS Continuum Research Group (RCRG). En: Monash University.


Information Technology [sitio web]. [Consulta: 2014-09-29].
Disponible en:
http://www.infotech.monash.edu.au/research/groups/rcrg/

UPWARD, Frank. In Search of the Continuum: Ian Macleans Australian


Experience': Essays on Recordkeeping. En: The Records Continuum:
Ian Maclean and Australian Archives first fifty years. Clayton: Ancora
Press in association with Australian Archives, 1994. Tambin
disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/fuptrc.html

Institutionalising the archival document: A republishing. En:


Archives and Social Studies: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Research
[en lnea]. Vol. 1, n. 0, p. 467-493. [Consulta: 2012-01-21]. Disponible
en:

http://socialstudies.cartagena.es/images/PDF/no0/upward_institutional
izing.pdf

Modelling the continuum as paradigm shift in recordkeeping and


archiving processes, and beyond a personal reflection. En: Records
Management Journal, november 2001. Tambin disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/Frank
%20U%20RMJ%202001.pdf

Structuring the Records Continuum - Part One: Postcustodial


principles and properties. En: Archives and Manuscripts, 1996, vol.
24, n. 2. Tambin disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/recordscon
tinuum/fupp1.html

Structuring the Records Continuum, Part Two: Structuration Theory


and Recordkeeping. En: Archives and Manuscripts, 1997, vol. 25, n. 1.
Tambin disponible en:
http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/publications/recordscon
tinuum/fupp2.html

Fecha de alta: 2012-01-26.

Fecha de modificacin: 2015-02-01.

Licencia: CC BY-SA.