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Authority records

Authority records are one of the core Entity types in AtoM and provide users with a means to control the representation of information about actors - corporate bodies, persons, or families - who interact with archival materials, typically as creators. Typically, authority records contain information about the authorized form of name and other forms of name by which the actor is known, dates of existence, relevant adminstrtive or biographical history details, and other contextual information; additionally, roles in events and relationships with archival materials are also captured and expressed.

The International Council on Archives (ICA) defines an authority record as “The authorized form of name combined with other information elements that identify and describe the named entity and may also point to other related authority records.” Maintaining contextual information about records creators and other actors is essential to archival practice, and helps establish the provenance and authenticity of the related records. Additionally, archival authority records, like library authority records, can be used to control the creation and use of access points, thereby improving access for researchers and other members of the public. By maintaining authority records separately from archival descriptions, complex relationships of creation and contribution can be expressed, even between materials held by different archival institutions or in different kinds of repositories such as libraries and museums. By using a recognized international standard to control the creation of authority records, archival institutions have the opportunity to share authority records. As the ICA notes,

Such standardization is of particular international benefit when the sharing or linking of contextual information is likely to cross national boundaries. The multinational character of past and present record keeping creates the incentive for international standardization which will support the exchange of contextual information. For example, processes such as colonialization, immigration and trade have contributed to the multinational character of recordkeeping.” (ISAAR Introduction)

In AtoM, the data elements used to describe authority records are based on the ICA’s International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, or ISAAR(CPF).

An image of an Authority record in AtoM

AtoM, Authority records, Biographical histories, and Name access points

In AtoM, authority records are maintained separately from archival descriptions, but can be linked to them by adding persons, families, or corporate bodies as creators or as name access points. To take advantage of this capability, and to enforce greater standards compliance, AtoM’s standards-based archival description templates for ISAG(G), RAD, and DACS, there is no field provided for an administrative or biographical history, despite the fact that such a field exists in all three related standards.

This is not because the data cannot be added - rather it is because as a database, AtoM provides a method of pulling the related administrative or biographical history from the authority record, directly into the linked description. Here’s why:

ISAD(G) defines 3.2.2 Administrative / Biographical history in the following way:

Purpose: To provide an administrative history of, or biographical details on, the creator (or creators) of the unit of description to place the material in context and make it better understood. Rules: Record concisely any significant information on the origin, progress, development and work of the organization (or organizations) or on the life and work of the individual (or individuals) responsible for the creation of the unit of description.

The entry in ISAD 3.2.2 goes on to indicate that the ISAAR(CPF) standard (for authority record creation) be consulted for specific informational elements that may be included. As such, the 3.2.2 field is not intended to include information that is particular to either the archival description,or the fonds, or its internal management - instead, it should only contain general historic information that is included in the description to provide greater context. Separate maintenance of authority records is also discussed at 1.5, 1.6, and 1.8 of the ISAAR-CPF standard.

The Canadian Rules for Archival Description (RAD) is even more explicit, noting in a footnote that:

If the institution maintains a separate file containing authority records for persons, families and corporate bodies, etc., the biographical information or administrative history may be kept as part of the record for that person, family, or corporate body and, therefore, does not have to be given in the description of the material. This enables the same authority record and the biographical information or administrative history that it contains, to be used for other descriptions and used in finding aids and products, e.g., when the name is associated with a subject index entry, or the same person, family or corporate body occurs in other descriptions. (footnote 25, 1-52)

This echoes the conclusions of the United States archival standard, Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS):

Information about the corporate body, person, or family that created, assembled, accumulated, and/or maintained and used the materials being described may be described in one of two ways: 1. Incorporated into the description using biographical/historical notes. 2. Held in a separate system of authority files that are linked to the archival descriptions and displayed together.

In light of this, and in an effort to provide greater re-usability of authority records (and hence more authority control overall) in the application, AtoM behaves in several specific ways:

  • Whenever a new name is added to a description (either as a creator, or as a name access point), a new stub authority record is automatically generated for that person, family, or corporate body, which can then be supplemented by navigating to the authority record itself. The new authority record is linked to the archival description, and the new name will now appear in the autocomplete drop-downs when a user starts typing to add any other creator names or name access points in subsequent descriptions.
  • When a creator name is added to an archival description, the name is also automatically added as a name access point - there is no need to add the creator as a name (subject) access point manually.
  • When a creator name is added to an archival description, the biographical/administrative history for that creator will appear at the level of description where the name has been added, but will not repeat at lower levels. The creator name will be inherited by lower levels however, unless a different name is explicitly added at a lower level. By inheriting the name, AtoM supports the recommended practice of not repeating information unnecessarily at lower levels of description.
  • If a user navigates to the related creator’s authority record and edits it, adding data to the “History” field (ISAAR-CPF 5.2.2), that data will appear in the related archival description as the administrative or biographical history. If the authority record’s entity type is set to “Person” or “Family”, the history will display as a Biographical history in the related description under the creator name; if the entity type is set “Corporate body,” it will appear as an Administrative history.
  • Similarly, any Administrative / biographical history data in an archival description EAD import (i.e. data contained in the <bioghist> EAD element) will be mapped to the “History” field (ISAAR-CPF 5.2.2) in the related authority record, (generated from the data contained in the <origination> element of the EAD) and then is presented in AtoM in any related descriptions where the entity is listed as a creator.
  • Where multiple creator names and histories are included in an import, <origination> and <bioghist> elements are matched 1:1 in the order they appear in the EAD.
  • If a <bioghist> element is included in an EAD import, but no creator name is included, AtoM will still automatically generate a stub authority record and map the <bioghist> data to the “History” field (ISAAR-CPF 5.2.2) - the authority record will be left untitled, until the user manually adds the appropriate name to the authority record. Similarly, if there are more <bioghist> elements included in an import than creator names included in <origination> elements, the final biographical/administrative history will be mapped to an untitled authority record.

Below are instructions for using the AtoM Authority records module to:

Tip

For more information on using the specific fields within the Authority record template, see: ISAAR template

Create a new authority record

The ICA’s model of authority record use and maintenance means that separate records are created for all actors (persons, families, and corporate bodies), which can then be linked to related archival descriptions. In AtoM this process has been automated wherever possible to simplify the workflow - consequently, a new authority record is automatically created any time a new name (such as a creator name or a name access point) is associated with a description. This means that there are several different ways to create new authority records:

Note

To create new authority records, you must be logged in to AtoM with a user account with sufficient edit permissions to create authority records, such as an administrator, editor, or contributor. For more information on types of users and edit permissions, see User roles

Add a new authority record from the main menu

  1. In the main menu located in the header bar, click the plus“Add” and select “Authority record”. Alternatively, navigate to an authority record view page and click the “Add new” button in the button block. AtoM takes you to a blank edit page for data entry.
An image of the Add menu's options
  1. On loading, the edit page displays the record with all information areas closed; click on an information area to access the fields grouped under it.
An image of a new authority record
  1. Enter data as required. The authority record edit template is based on the ICA’s International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (ISAAR). For more information on the use of particular fields in the ISAAR authority record edit template, see: ISAAR(CPF).
  2. You can quit the creation process at any time by clicking the “Cancel” button in the button block; any data already entered will not be saved, and no new record will be created. Note that simply navigating away from the page by any other means, without first clicking “Create” will also result in no new record being created.
  3. To save the new record, click the “Create” button located in the button block at the bottom of the record.
An image of the create button on a new authority record

Once the new authority record is saved, you will be redirected to the record’s view page, where you can review your work. Clicking “Edit” in the button block at the bottom of the record will re-open the authority record in edit mode.

Important

Currently, there is no “Draft” publication status for an authority record in AtoM. This means that as soon as you create an authority record, it will be visible to public users (i.e. unauthenticated users who are not logged in). Unauthenticated users will not have access to the button block, and cannot edit the record.

Add a new authority record from an authority record view page

A new authority record can also be added to AtoM from the view page of any other authority record via the “Add new” button in the button block. To do so:

  1. Navigate to an existing authority record in AtoM. You can do this by browsing or by searching for a specific authority record - see Access content for more information on navigation in AtoM.
  2. At the bottom of the authority record’s view page, you will see the button block with several options (Edit, Delete, and Add new). Click “Add new”.
An image of the Add new button on an existing authority record
  1. Enter data as required. The authority record edit template is based on the ICA’s International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (ISAAR). For more information on the use of particular fields in the ISAAR authority record edit template, see: ISAAR(CPF).
  2. You can quit the creation process at any time by clicking the “Cancel” button in the button block; any data already entered will not be saved, and no new record will be created. Note that simply navigating away from the page by any other means, without first clicking “Create” will also result in no new record being created.
  3. To save the new record, click the “Create” button located in the button block at the bottom of the record.
An image of the create button on a new authority record

Once the new authority record is saved, you will be redirected to the record’s view page, where you can review your work. Clicking “Edit” in the button block at the bottom of the record will re-open the authority record in edit mode.

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Edit an existing authority record

  1. First, navigate to an existing authority record in AtoM. You can do this by browsing or by searching for a specific authority record - see Access content for more information on navigation in AtoM. See ISAAR-CPF for more information on specific fields in the authority record edit template.
  2. Switch from view mode to edit mode by clicking “Edit” button in the button block, or by clicking on one of the information area headings; this takes you to the record’s edit page.
An image of the button block on an authority record
  1. On loading, the edit page displays the record with all information areas closed; click on an information area to access the fields grouped under it
  2. Add and/or revise data as required.
  3. You can quit the create process at any time by clicking the “Cancel” button in the button block; any changes made will not be saved. Note that simply navigating away from the page by any other means, without first clicking “Save” will also result in no changes being saved to the authority record.
  4. To save your edits, click the “Save” button located in the button block at the bottom of the record.
An image of the button block when editing an authority record

You will be redirected to the view page for the edited authority record, where you can review your work.

Tip

Did you know that you can also use a CSV import to update your authority records? See:

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Add access points to your authority record

The International Council on Archives’ ISAD(G) standard defines an access point as a “name, term, keyword, phrase or code that may be used to search, identify and locate an archival description.” Access points help users not only understand contextual information, but discover further related content. In AtoM, you can now apply access points to an authority record as well.

In AtoM, access points are controlled value terms maintained in a taxonomy, which can be used to aid in discovery. Currently AtoM supports one type of access point for authority records - Occupations. By default in a new installation, the related taxonomy is empty, but as users add access point data to authority records, they are preserved as terms in the Actor occupations taxonomy, so they can be managed and reused. For more information on working with terms and taxonomies in AtoM, see: Terms.

The Occupations access point includes an autocomplete field linked to the Actor occupations taxonomy, and a free-text note field, where you can add further context specific to the person, family, or corporate body described in the related authority record.

Once occupation access points have been added to your authority records, they will show up as a facet on the authority record browse page:

An image of the authority record browse page, with the Occupations facet visible in the left-hand context menu.

To add access points to your authority record:

  1. First, navigate to an existing authority record in AtoM. You can do this by browsing or by searching for a specific authority record - see Access content for more information on navigation in AtoM. See ISAAR-CPF for more information on specific fields in the authority record edit template.

Tip

You can always add access points to new authority records as you create them as well - for more information on creating authority records, see above:

Steps 4-7 of these instructions will provide further specific guidance on using the access point fields.

  1. Switch from view mode to edit mode by clicking “Edit” button in the button block, or by clicking on one of the information area headings; this takes you to the record’s edit page.
An image of the button block on an authority record
  1. On loading, the edit page displays the record with all information areas closed; click on an information area to access the fields grouped under it
  2. Navigate to the Access points area, near the bottom of the edit page. If it is not already expanded to display the available fields, you can click on the “Access points” area header to expand it.
An image of the Access points area in an Authority record
  1. Add data as required. The “Occupation” field is your access point - the field is an auto-complete, linked to the Actor occupations taxonomy. If you have previously added terms to the taxonomy, then as you type, matches will appear below - click on a matching term that appears in the drop-down menu to select it. Alternatively, you can create a new access point simply by entering it into the field - on save, the access point will be saved as a term in the Actor occupations taxonomy so you can reuse it in the future.
An image of the terms drop-down beneath the Occupations field as a user types

Important

If you are not careful, it is easy to accidentally create duplicate terms! To avoid duplication, matching terms must be selected from the auto-complete drop-down - otherwise, even exact matches will create duplicates when the user presses enter.

  1. The “Note” field is a free-text field where you can add further contextual information specific to the current person, organization, or family being described. This note data is not stored in the Actor occupations taxonomy - it is only associated with the current authority record.
An image of the Note field in the Occupations access point
  1. You can add multiple access points at once, as needed. To add an additional access point, click the “Add new” link beneath the access point fields. AtoM will add a new row of fields, and you can continue your data entry as needed. If you decide you wish to remove one or more of the access points, click the X to the right of the Note field, and AtoM will delete the row.

Note

If you have added a new access point and saved your record, then re-entering edit mode and deleting the access point will only remove it from the authority record - it will not delete the term from the Actor occupations taxonomy. If you wish to delete the term from AtoM completely, you will need to do so via Manage > Terms. For more information, see:

  1. You can quit the create process at any time by clicking the “Cancel” button in the button block at the bottom of the page; any changes made will not be saved. Note that simply navigating away from the page by any other means, without first clicking “Save” will also result in no changes being saved to the authority record.
  2. To save your edits, click the “Save” button located in the button block at the bottom of the record.
An image of the button block when editing an authority record

You will be redirected to the view page for the edited authority record, where you can review your work.

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Create a relationship between two authority records

  1. First, navigate to the authority record you wish to edit. You can do this by browsing or searching for the archival description - see Access content for more information on navigation in AtoM.
  2. Switch from view mode to edit mode by clicking “Edit” button in the button block, or by clicking on one of the information area headings; this takes you to the record’s edit page.
An image of the button block on an authority record
  1. In the “Relationships” information area of the authority record’s edit page, click the “Add new” button under “Related corporate bodies, persons, or families”.
An image of the Relationships area in an authority record
  1. AtoM will open a pop-up dialog where you can select the related authority record and define the nature and time frame of the relationship.
  2. The first field in the pop-up dialog, “Title of the related resource,” is an auto-complete field: as you type, matching results will load in a drop-down menu below the field. When you see the authority record you would like to link, click on it to select it.
An image of the Relationships dialog in an authority record

Note

You cannot create a new authority record from this dialog by entering a new name. If the second authority record does not exist yet, follow the steps above to create a new authority record and then follow these steps from the new record to create the relationship.

  1. The “Type of relationship” field is pre-populated with default terms, pictured in the image below. These terms can be edited and managed in the Actor Relation Type taxonomy, and new terms can be added as well. For more information on managing terms, see: Terms; see specifically Add/edit a converse term.
An image of the Relationship type default terms
  1. Add additional details in the subsequent fields to qualify the relationship. When you are finished, click “Submit”.
An image of the submit button in the Relationships dialog
  1. The related authority record will now appear in the Related corporate bodies, persons, or families table of the Relationships area. Click the pencil icon to re-open the pop-up dialog and edit the relationship, or click the X icon to remove the relationship link. You can also repeat this process to add multiple links by clicking the “Add new” button below the Related corporate bodies, persons, or families again - AtoM will open a new pop-up dialog. Repeat steps 3-6 as needed.
An image of the relationships area in the edit template
  1. When you are finished, click “Save” in the button block at the bottom of the authority record’s edit page to save your changes and exit edit mode.
An image of the button block when in Edit mode
  1. AtoM will reload the authority record in view mode. relationship is expressed in the “Relationships” information area of the authority record’s view page, and the related record’s name will appear as a hyperlink.
An image of the relationships area in the view template
  1. Additionally, converse information will also be added to the related authority record.
An image of the relationships area in the view template

Tip

Relationship types with opposites (such as parent of and child of) are known in AtoM as converse terms. AtoM includes a number of default relationship terms for use in the Relationship dialogue. These terms and their relationships to each other can be edited and managed in the Actor Relation Type taxonomy, and new terms can be added as well. For more information on managing terms, see: Terms; see specifically Add/edit a converse term.

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Create a relationship between an authority record and a function

AtoM can also create a linked relationship between a function and an authority record. A function is a type of entity that describes activities linked to records creation, maintenance and use. For more information on working with Functions in AtoM, see: Functions. Below are the steps to create a relationship between an existing authority record and an existing function:

  1. Navigate to the function you would like to relate to an authority record. You can do this by going to the Browse page for functions (Browse > Functions) and then either browsing through the list, or using the dedicated Functions search bar on the Browse functions page to find the related function. Click on the related function to navigate to its view page. For more information on browsing and searching in AtoM, see: Browse or Search.
An image of the Browse menu
  1. Switch from view mode to edit mode by clicking “Edit” button in the button block, or by clicking on one of the information area headings; this takes you to the record’s edit page.
An image of the button block on a function record
  1. In the “Relationships” information area of the function’s edit page, click the “Add new” button under “Related authority records”.
  2. AtoM will open a pop-up dialog where you can select the related authority record and define the nature and time frame of the relationship.
  3. The first field in the pop-up dialog, “Title of the related resource,” is an auto-complete field: as you type, matching results will load in a :term :drop-down menu below the field. When you see the authority record you would like to link, click on it to select it.
An image of the Functions relationship dialog

Note

You cannot create a new authority record from this dialog by entering a new name. If the related authority record does not exist yet, follow the steps above to create a new authority record and then follow these steps from the beginning to create the relationship.

  1. Add additional details in the subsequent fields to qualify the relationship. When you are finished, click “Submit”.
An image of the submit button in the Functions relationship dialog
  1. The related authority record will now appear in the Related authority records table of the Relationships area. Click the pencil icon to re-open the pop-up dialog and edit the relationship, or click the X icon to remove the relationship link. You can also repeat this process to add multiple links by clicking the “Add new” button below the Related authority records again - AtoM will open a new pop-up dialog. Repeat steps 3-6 as needed.
An image of the Relationships area in a function record
  1. When you are finished, click “Save” in the button block at the bottom of the function’s edit page to save your changes and exit edit mode.
An image of the button block when in Edit mode
  1. AtoM will reload the function in view mode. Back to top. The relationship is expressed in the “Relationships” information area of the function’s view page, and the related record’s name will appear as a hyperlink. If you follow the hyperlink, you will see that the related function now appears in the “Relationships” area of the linked authority record.

Delete an authority record

  1. Navigate to the authority record you wish to edit. You can do this by browsing or searching for the authority record - see Access content for more information on navigation in AtoM.
  2. Click the Delete button in the button block.
An image of the button block on an authority record
  1. AtoM prompts you to confirm the delete request: click “Delete” to proceed (or you can click “Cancel” to return to the authority record’s view page).
An image of the warning when Delete is selected on an authority
  1. AtoM deletes the record and opens the authority record browse results page.

Important

Consequences of deleting an authority record:

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