n. (also artefact) a physical object that is made or modified by human culture a three-dimensional object held in an archives a library or archival resource that has value as a physical object in addition to its informational value an anomaly in data that results from the methodology used to capture or analyze the data, or that was introduced or produced during a procedure


Artifact1 is often used in archaeology to distinguish man-made items from natural specimens. Even though documents and other two-dimensional materials are artifacts because of their physical nature, artifact is often used in the archival community to distinguish three-dimensional materials from two-dimensional materials. Artifacts may be preserved as records, documenting a design or function. For example, throughout the nineteenth century the United States Patent Office required models of inventions as part of the patent record. In addition, many archival record groups and manuscript collections contain artifacts among other more traditional visual and textual material, such as a campaign button filed with the flyer documenting the political rally at which it was acquired. In the 1990s, concern in the academic community about the destruction of records, manuscripts, and printed materials after microfilming and digitization prompted the use of artifact3, which is essentially synonymous with the archival concept of a resource containing artifactual value or intrinsic value. Examples of artifact4 include specks in a digital image not in the original, but resulting from noise in the digitization process.