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Contagious Description: Factors Influencing the Adoption of the Australian Series System in New Zealand Archives

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posted on 12.11.2021, 00:18 by Battley, Belinda Jane

The Australian series system has been identified as useful in describing the multiple relationships increasingly identified in archival collections due to complex administrative history, the need to describe electronic records or a wish to describe multiple views of a single group of archives. However, throughout New Zealand it has been fully adopted by relatively few Archives. A mixed-methods survey was carried out to investigate motivators and barriers to the adoption of the Australian series system, using quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis of responses to a questionnaire. Using Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory and the records continuum model to suggest factors and map the results, it was found that the main motivator to use the AuSS was an archivist convinced of its value, through training or previous use, and with an awareness of archival conventions and standards. Other motivators included a large collection with a complex administrative history, the availability of compatible software, institutional support, and expert advice recommending its use. Barriers included lack of awareness or training, lack of autonomy for the archivist, and lack of resources. Changes to description occurred when particular moments of opportunity coincided with perceived needs. These factors worked together at all levels of the records continuum to affect decisions made by archivists on the type of description to use in their finding aids. Wider use of the AuSS to enable better information sharing and more fully-developed contextual description could be achieved through the provision of better publicised information; expert advice on implementation and on migration of existing data; and practical, readymade, simple and adaptable templates for finding aids.


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Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

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Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Masters Research Paper or Project



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Information Management