Provenance in the Archives: The Challenge of the Digital* Overview The Principle of Provenance is a pillar of Archival Science. In its very early stages it mostly meant not to intermingle documents from different origins. This view has been challenged in the past fifty years: archival provenance has moved from a simplistic one-to-one relationship to a multi-dimensional concept based on a network of relationships between objects, agents and functions. The digital environment has posed new and unpredictable challenges: digital objects are often aggregations of several different pieces, and it is extremely easy to mix and re-use them, which makes it difficult to trace their provenance. Cloud computing has complicated the picture further. However, new technologies help us to cope with such complexity. Resource Description Framework (RDF) and ontologies can be used to represent provenance in a granular and articulated way that was not even conceivable in the past, giving us the opportunity to review and refine established practices and concepts. Introduction The International Council on Archives (2007) has defined provenance as: [t]he relationships between records and the organizations or individuals that created, accumulated and/or maintained and used them in the conduct of personal or corporate activity. Provenance is also the relationship between records and the functions which generated the need of the records. (p. 10) In other words, archival provenance refers to the origins, custody, ownership and use of archival objects. This concept is the basis for the Principle of Provenance, a pillar of Archival Science, which prescribes that archival documents should be arranged according to their provenance in order to preserve their context, hence their meaning. This is a simplification of a complex concept that has been investigated and debated by many scholars since the nineteenth century. In its very early stages, the Principle of Provenance mostly meant not to intermingle giovanni michetti This essay is going to be published in 2018 in Authority, Provenance, Authenticity, Evidence. Proceedings of the Conference on Authority, Provenance, Authenticity, Evidence held in Zadar, Croatia, 25 to 18 October 2016. Selected papers, edited by Ann Gilliland, Mirna Willer and Marijana Tomic (Zadar: University of Zadar, 2018). Part of the content of this essay is drawn from Giovanni Michetti, "Provenance: An Archival Perspective," in Building Trust in Information: Perspectives on the Frontiers of Provenance, edited by Victoria L. Lemieux (Cham, CH: Springer International Publishing, 2016), pp. 59-68. 229

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Jaarboeken Stichting Archiefpublicaties | 2017 | | pagina 116