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We try to keep our virtual exhibits accessible and use a minimum of jargon but it's hard to avoid!

Like all disciplines, there are certain terms unique to archives, and others that are used in a specific way. So, we've created this glossary of terms that you may come across in our virtual exhibits.

The good news is that these terms are standard in archives across Canada (and most of the world for that matter).



— this term actually is used in a few different ways:

  1. The records of an individual, organization, or business that have been set aside and preserved because they have been identified as permanently valuable. These records are kept with the understanding that they will be saved and made accessible in perpetuity
  2. An aggregate of individual archives — the City of Edmonton Archives has the archives of the City of Edmonton as well as the archives of Edmonton citizens, organizations, and businesses
  3. A physical place — the City of Edmonton Archives is located within the Prince of Wales Armouries


(alternate spelling Artefact)

Usually a three dimensional object created, used by, or having an association with an historical person, period or place


Records collected over time from several different sources, usually based on specific criteria (subject or media for example). They are accumulated by intent rather than as a by-product and are therefore considered more artificial than organic (see Fonds)


The individual, organization, or business that is the originator of a group of records that have been set aside for preservation. Note that creators set aside records that they have generated as well as records that they have received from others

Finding Aid

A guide produced by the archives to describe records to give contextual information and access points (names, titles and date ranges) to researchers. Finding aids explain the who, what, where, when and why of a set of records


(pronounced fon, it is a shortening of the French term, Fonds d'Archives)

All the records that have been accumulated (made or received) by an individual or organization through normal daily activity and then put aside and saved. Because the records are a by-product of regular activities, this type of aggregation is considered to be a more organic process than the gathering of a collection and therefore is more representative of the creator


Archives really do mean that we will keep the records in our care accessible for all time. Sometimes this means making access copies and keeping the original in controlled conditions (for example, controlling temperature and humidity for paper records and having secure server vaults for digital records). However, archives do give access to the original record wherever possible


Evidence, regardless of format, of an activity or decision. Depending on what they document, different records need to be kept for different amounts of time. Some are only needed in the short term and others are kept permanently (archives)



EA: Edmonton Archives

— signifies a photograph

EAA: Edmonton Archives Artwork

— signifies artwork

MS: Manuscript

— signifies records created by a person or organization; a private record

RAD: Rules for Archival Description

— a descriptive standard used for finding aids in archives across Canada

RG: Record Group

— signifies records created by the City of Edmonton; a public record


For a complete glossary of archival terms we recommend:

The Society of American Archivists'

Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology


For More Information

City of Edmonton Archives

10440 108 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta
T5H 3Z9




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