After 3 years of working to the IIAS dictionary, I would like, for future generations of students), to share some thoughts about it. I have talked with Antonio, and he encouraged me to write these on the forum.
I do not want to be dogmatic in anyway, I would just like to generate a discussion. So, take this only as an opinion, even if my voce might get too loud in some parts of the text.
The idea of this dictionary is extraordinary. Bringing so many peoples from a variety of country is a great opportunity, and the Institute find a great way of use all that expertise. As clearly seen from the very beginning, the outcome of this endeavor might be a relevant contribution to the international archival science. Because everybody has “international cooperation”, but not as many are certain that they truly understand each other.
So, what about the dictionary?
Browsing it for translation of the definitions, I have noticed some issues that I would like to raise. In my opinion, these should be improved.
1. Some terms are really so rare in use, that they should not be present in an abridged archival dictionary. For instance: legal protection, or access date etc.
2. I dare to say that some English equivalents for Italian terms are not correct. For instance, selezione seems to me not to be really the English disposal/disposition (many differences, about perspective and content of the concept). BTW, the English is digitization, not digitalization. Not to mention anything about “act” that has not the same meaning in English like in Italian (atto) or in Romanian (act).
3. Because of different literature used for reference, there are some ambiguities: in Italian definition for ‘creator’, it is used use the term documentazione, with the meaning of “whole documents created by…”, but when the English ‘documentation’ came, you use the same Italian word, but with different meaning than before. And this is not the only one, but I would like to be short.
4. Eventually, some terms are defined very regional specific; ‘legal protection’, for instance. The term might exists everywhere, but the institution from the definition – I really doubt )
What is to be done?
Well, in my opinion it is necessary a little “work reform”. We have started from a chosen list, we have translated it and we have tried to fill it up with some general accepted definitions. In my opinion, taking advantage of the IIAS School, we (you, from now on) should start somehow opposite.
A. In the archival work, we have some generic functions: arrangement, description, appraisal etc. Firstly, it must be identified and clearly stated what these functions are, how they are named in every language of the IIAS School participants, and how they are defined.
B. Secondly, each country should identify the activities that support a certain function. For instance, in English there are many terms: evaluation, appraisal, selection, re-appraisal etc., each one for a specific activity. These activities must be set on the life-scale of records, identifying for each country/national archival practice where, how, and when these activities occurred. When the whole picture is collected, then it is easier to have inter-national (sic!) equivalence for different words and one can also see the relevance of different terms in the big picture.
These “function approach” is not new; it was used, as far as I know, when editing the Elsevier's Lexicon of Archive Terminology. Compiled in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch by a committee of the International Council on Archives. New York: Elsevier Publishing Company, 1964. In my opinion, it is the only way to have a very precise translation of terms; meaning, not only a translation of words, but a translation of meanings.
I was wondering why this method was not adopted when editing the other international dictionaries. In my opinion, it is not so easy: it is necessary to have international specialists, in the same environment, to share a common language and different experiences. This was not simple to achieve. But IIAS School have them all, and it would be a great opportunity to fully use the whole expertise brought there.
National Archives of Romania