Describing Digitized Archival Records: Analysing Descriptions of Digitized Archival Material in Online Accessible Archival Databases

Zdenka Semlič Rajh


National Program for Culture defines that the digitization and preservation of digital content in the field of culture which includes archives and libraries are among the basic tasks of public institutions which deal with cultural heritage.

Libraries and archives have in the last ten years implemented various digitization projects. However, they did not pay attention to the description of digitized material, which in turn raises the question of the importance of context. This also raises the question of the evidential value of the digitized archives as well as the authenticity, integrity and accountability of the digitized material in a broader context. All of these are provided by the archives on the basis of the principles of provenance and original order.

The digitization of archives is not specific only from the standpoint of the digitization process itself but also from the standpoint of the description of digitized archives. Namely, adequate description enables the wide use of digitized archival material.

A short overview of literature and research conducted up to now is followed by an analysis of online accessible descriptions of digitized archival material. The analysis was conducted in 48 archival information systems and their databases. These are large systems, some of which operate as a common database of several smaller archives, however, some are individual systems within large national archives. The analyses was conducted in publicly accessible user interfaces, and was based on a direct applicability of the descriptions of digitized archival material within individual database. This is the query that can be performed by an average user of archival material who has access to a search engine and knows at least the basics of a web browser as well as of searching and sorting of the results.


Zdenka SEMLIČ RAJH, Archival Councillor, graduated in History at the University in Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts. She obtained Master’s degree and Ph.D. in the field of Information and Library science at the same faculty. In 2010, she was awarded with the title Archival Councillor given by the Ministry of Culture, which is the highest professional title in Slovenia. Since 1990, she has been employed at the Regional Archives Maribor and is involved in all aspects of records and archival management. In the same year began her involvement with the International Institute for Archival Science, where she was the Head of the Study Programe and was also responsible for international relations between 1990–2001. Today she holds the position of the IIAS Executive Board member. As a researcher in the field of archival science and records management, she is taking part in national and international research projects related to the archival professional standards, organisation of information and especially to the problems of the creation of headings, classifications and thesauri in archival institutions and retrieval of information. She is the author of many published and performed works related to archival science.

Beside her professional work in the Archives of Maribor, she became in 2013 a lecturer for the field of Archives and Records Management Studies at the University Alma Mater Europaea – European Centre Maribor. Recently she was appointed as Assistant Professor at the same University. From 2000-2004 she was a member of the ICA Committee on Buildings and Equipment in Temperate Climate (ICA/CBTE). She is a Chair of the Working Group for Slovenian Archival Terminology. Since 2014, she is a member of the ICA Experts Group for Archival Buildings and Environment. In 2014 she was the recipient of »Glazerjeva Award«, the highest award given by the City of Maribor for outstanding achievements in the field of culture in the past two years.