Ambient Functions: Abandoned Children to Zoos

  • Chris Hurley


Since records are timebound and contextual metadata must be understood by an observer whose frame of reference is different from that of the record-keeper, there is a need for external validation. The processes of terminological control (based on definition) are inadequate for this purpose. What is needed is a process of contextual control (based on observation). Ambience is the context of provenance and it is there that we will find external validation of provenance data. Functions offer one possible tool for crafting ambient relationships. Ambient functions define and give meaning to agents of record-keeping within the context in which they operate. Ambient functions should be distinguished from business activities and processes, which do not afford the basis for meaningful discrimination necessary when formulating appraisal categories and useful search patterns.


Puisque les documents appartiennent à leur époque et que la méta-information contextuelle doit être comprise par un observateur dont le cadre de référence est différent de celui d'un gestionnaire de documents, il y a un besoin de validation. Les processus de contrôle terminologiques (fondés sur l'observation) sont inadéquats. Un processus de contrôle contextuel basé sur l'observation est nécessaire. "L'ambiance" est le contexte de provenance et c'est là que l'on retrouvera la validation externe de l'information sur la provenance. Les fonctions constituent un outil possible pour constituer ces relations d'ambiance. Les fonctions ambiantes définissent et donnent un sens aux gestionnaires de documents à l'intérieur du contexte dans lequel ils oeuvrent. Les fonctions ambiantes doivent être distinguées des activités courantes et des différents processus qui ne requièrent pas un tri élaboré que nécessite la catégorisation des critères d'évaluation ou des plans de recherche.

Author Biography

Chris Hurley
Chris Hurley has a BA (Hons) in History (University of Sydney) and post-graduate diplomas in Education (University of Sydney), Librarianship (University of New South Wales), and Archives (University of London). He began working in archives in 1971 at the Australian Archives where he was involved at various times in arrangement and description, transfer and disposal, and the development of the 1983 Archives Act. From 1981 to 1990, he was Keeper of Public Records for the State of Victoria. He has served four terms on the Council of the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) and has convened both the A.C.T. and Victorian Branches. He is currently Convener of the ASA's Education Committee. Sam Kula has been involved with the conservation of moving images since he was trained by Ernest Lindgren at the National Film Archives of the British Film Institute in London. After five years of service in Washington as Archivist of the American Film Institute, he returned to Canada in 1973 to establish the National Film Archives Division at the National Archives in Ottawa; he managed that activity for fifteen years. He now directs the Canadian Image Project for the Department of Canadian Heritage.
How to Cite
Hurley, Chris. 1995. “Ambient Functions: Abandoned Children to Zoos”. Archivaria 40 (October), 21-39.