n.data or information stored on some medium and used as an extension of human memory or to support accountabilityYates 1989, 12Henry Metcalfe argued “Now, administration without records is like music without notes—by ear. Good as far as it goes—which is but a little way—it bequeaths [sic] nothing to the future. Except in the very rudest industries, carried on as if from hand to mouth, all recognize that the present must prepare for the demands of the future, and hence records, more or less elaborate, are kept.”Dearstyne 1992, 1[Records are] . . . any type of recorded information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, created, received, or maintained by a person, institution, or organization. . . . Records are extensions of the human memory, purposefully created to record information, document transactions, communicate thoughts, substantiate claims, advance explanations, offer justifications, and provide lasting evidence of events. Their creation results from a fundamental human need to create and store information, to retrieve and transmit it, and to establish tangible connections with the past.Duff 1996, 29Records, the fundamental instrument of business transactions, are mutating from a concrete, static, structured document to formless, dynamic data that resides in a computer’s memory or on a disk. As records migrate from a stable paper reality to an intangible electronic existence, their physical attributes, vital for establishing the authenticity and reliability of the evidence they contain, are threatened. . . . Records are utilitarian in nature, and are created to fulfill a business function and document business processes. . . . They are created in the first instances to control or direct an organization and to help orient staff to a common goal or purpose. They have residual value because they document the outcomes of the directing and controlling activities and because they provide evidence of an organization’s rights as well as its obligations to its staff and society.McGovern and Samuels 1997, 20Data become records when the content, context, and structure are tied together to provide both meaning and functionality.Lemieux 2001, 91–92Even within the archival profession, there are many differences among archivists’ conceptualization of records. Perhaps the argument is best summed up with the observation that one person’s “management information” is another person’s “record.” . . . More generally, the research offers a warning to archivists to be wary of assuming that archival conceptualizations about records are absolutes when they are only one possible way of understanding recorded information.Park 2001, 273Indiana University’s Electronic Records Project . . . found that records exist within the structure and context of information systems as the consequence of a business event, but not as discrete physical objects.InterPARES 2002, 7A record is assumed to be a representation of a fact or act that is memorialized on a physical carrier—that is, a medium—and preserved by a physical or juridical person in the course of carrying out its activities. It follows that a record cannot exist before its elements have been inscribed or affixed to a medium.Piñar 2003, 166All images constitute a record, irrespective of the value we may attach to the information they contain.U.S. Code, 5 USC 552aThe term “record” means any item, collection, or grouping of information about an individual that is maintained by an agency, including, but not limited to, his education, financial transactions, medical history, and criminal or employment history and that contains his name, or the identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual, such as a finger or voice print or a photograph.U.S. Code, 44 USC 3301“Records” includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of data in them. Library and museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of processed documents are not included. [definition in progress]an instrument filed for public notice (constructive notice); see recordationAudiovisual Recordsa phonodiscComputinga collection of related data elements treated as a unit, such as the fields in a row in a database table; a data recordDescriptionan entry describing a work in a catalog; a catalog record
See narrower terms for more specific definitions of different types of records.The use of the general term record when referring to a particular type of record inevitably leads to confusion because attributes of the particular type are not conveyed by the general term. In particular, the legal definition of record may change, depending on relevant laws, rules, and regulations.