The Commonwealth Record Series (CRS) Manual

7.1. Series - Definition

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7.1.0.  Series definition
7.1.1.     Identifying a series    Separate sequences within one series    Single item series    Records without a control system    Determining a series after top-numbering    Centralised control of records management systems     One series recorded by one agency     One series recorded by many agencies at the same time     Many series, each recorded by a different agency
7.1.2.     Last updated

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7.1.0. Series definition

A series is a group of records created or maintained by an agency or person that, regardless of currency, value or present custody:

A series may be recorded by successive agencies or persons, or by several agencies or persons simultaneously.

The records in a series comprise one or more items.

One of the goals of the CRS System is to show series in their administrative and recordkeeping context. While every series must have at least one agency or person recording, it is quite common for a long-running series to have been recorded by several agencies, each of which should be shown on the series registration along with the appropriate dates of that recording relationship. Each series registration must also include references to the current agencies or persons controlling the series.

Recordkeeping context is shown in the series registration through references to previous, subsequent, controlled, controlling and related series. Sometimes the linkages are very complex and require extensive research to identify and describe. In other cases, the linkages are simple.

Whether the linkages are simple or complex, the correct identification and description of contextual links greatly facilitates the retrieval of records by staff and clients.

7.1.1.  Identifying a series

The identification of a series is basically a process of matching records to the criteria in the series definition. Series identification therefore, involves an examination of the records and, in the case of electronic records, analysis of system documentation and consultation with records managers and information technology professionals.

Common problems associated with identifying series are discussed below.  Separate sequences within one series

Some series have what could be called 'sub-sequences' or sub-series, as in a subject based multiple number series. These sub-series should be treated as part of one system of arrangement and control, and therefore only one series should be registered. There is no provision for the separate registration of sub-series. Refer to sub-series in the Series Descriptive Note under the sub-heading System of Arrangement and Control.  Single item series

Where a single item, for example, a register or logbook, does not belong to an identifiable sequence and has not been accumulated or filed with other items, it should be treated as a separate series. Take care to establish that the item does not have an obscured relationship to other items. Checking for control symbols, physical format, function, information content - and above all, provenance - should clarify whether the item is a separate series or part of an unregistered or already registered series.  Records without a control system

Most records have some form of numerical, alphabetical or alpha-numeric control system. If no such control system exists, but the records have a similar format, function or information content - and they have been assembled or filed together as part of the same administrative process by the same agency or person (or succession of agencies or persons) - then a genuine series exists and should be registered. If you encounter such a series, you should impose a single number sequence - based on an underlying chronological or other sequence - to make intellectual and physical control easier. If you impose a control system, you must indicate this fact in the series registration in the System of Arrangement/Control and Series Descriptive Note fields.  Determining a series after top-numbering

When an agency brings together items from several series because of their relevance to a particular subject or activity, and subsequently wants to keep the records together for reference and archiving, Archives staff need to decide whether the records should be controlled as a new series, or treated as part of their original series. The principle to be followed is that items should be kept with or returned to their original series unless there are strong reasons for not doing so. Staff should avoid situations that will result in the unnecessary fragmentation of soundly controlled original series. Treating items as part of the original series will best reflect the circumstances of creation and official use of the records, as opposed to promoting convenient reference, sometimes years later, by the agency or its successors. Where there is evidence of renumbering or where a new control system has been partially or wholly imposed, the records may be treated as a new series. It is important to investigate whether the control records of the previous series have been annotated appropriately.

Where there is no evidence of a new control system, it is best to treat the items as part of their original series. The agency may opt to develop a supplementary control record to list the items, their relationships, and archival control numbers (if available) for future reference.

Archives Act requirements relating to the alteration of records over 25 years of age apply. Also, the Archives requests that agencies not top-number records over 10 years of age.  Centralised control of records management systems

When one system for the registration and indexing of records, for example, correspondence or case files, is managed from a central point for several distinct offices or posts of a department or authority, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether one or more series are involved. You also need to decide whether each distinct office should be treated as an agency recording for the records that it created and managed locally, or the records shown as recorded by one agency only. There are further complications if a simple numeric control system has been used rather than block allocations or a multiple number system that includes an office of origin code.

To determine this, investigate how the system was used and viewed by the principal recording agency or agencies. If agencies view the system as being recorded and or used in common, regardless of office or geographic location, that is, files move fairly freely between offices, then register one series recorded by the principal agency. If they view the system as one in which each office independently created and managed its own accumulations of records, apart from the somewhat remote and incidental sharing of a number allocation system, it would be more appropriate to register separate series, each recorded by the relevant agency.

There are advantages and disadvantages in regarding the records as:

There is currently no provision for showing a series as recorded by a whole organisation. However, the agency registration of the principal office of a corporation of agencies can stand for the corporation as a whole, provided clarification is given in the Series Descriptive Note.  One series recorded by one agency

This is the most commonly adopted approach in which one system of arrangement and control is recognised. If records are centralised for archiving in one location, a method of indicating the local office(s) of origin (if relevant) should be found on the transfer record. The disadvantage is that the series will not be included in the Archives' finding aids for each agency separately, unless it has been transferred to the Archives. However, if the description of the series contains a clear reference to the scope and coverage of the series, this difficulty will be minimised.  One series recorded by many agencies at the same time

This method shows the series as collectively recorded by each separate agency or office, although for archiving purposes the particular recording agency for each transfer record should be indicated. This approach may require considerable effort in documenting agencies.  Many series, each recorded by a different agency

This method is the clearest for showing the provenance of the records and for decentralised archiving and retrieval. However, it ignores the significance (if any) of the centralised system of arrangement and control. It is also the method that requires the most documentation and has the highest risk of inconsistency. Complications may result if records are moved between agencies for administrative convenience. Each series is likely to be controlled by the same index or indexes.

7.1.2.  Last updated:  27 June 2000


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