Glossary of terms used by various professions—archivists, historic preservationists, librarians, museum curators, records managers—that may have a different meaning depending on the field.

Inventory (Archives) – Inventory is the older word for what is now called a finding aid. An inventory tends to be only a box and folder listing of what is in an archival collection, or in large collections just a list of the series and boxes. Finding aids generally also include biographical information about the records creator or a history of the organization that created the collection; a scope and content note about what is in the collection; administrative information such as basic accession information, who processed the collection and when; cataloging information; and then a detailed inventory of the collection.

Inventory (Libraries) – Librarians usually use the term for taking an inventory of the books in the collection. Also called "reading" the shelves, it compares what is actually on the shelves with the shelf catalog—a listing of all the books by catalog number as they would appear on the shelves. An inventory would include any non-book items in the library collection as well (maps, video tapes, etc.).

Inventory (Historic Preservation) – It is the basic product of a historic resource survey - an organized compilation of information on properties identified in a survey.

Inventory (Museums) – A room-by-room assessment of everything housed in the museum, whether part of the collections or not. Take one room at a time and make a short description of each item. If an item has an accession number, include that information. Assign items inventory numbers.

Inventory (Records Management) – When you conduct a records inventory, you will locate, identify, describe, count, and measure all records of your organization no matter what medium they are in (loose and bound papers, microforms, optical disks, and magnetic tapes and disks, etc.). The information you gather will allow you to manage and dispose of your organization’s records systematically. In short, it will constitute the foundation of your entire records management program. Once you have obtained an accurate inventory, you should develop records retention schedules, which will tell you what records to destroy, which to store temporarily, and which to store permanently.

Original Order – Provenance and original order are the building blocks of archival arrangement. “Original order” means to preserve the order and organization in which the documents were created and/or stored by the creator of the records. If Mr. Olson stored his family’s papers by correspondence, photographs, and business records, then that is the order you must maintain them in.

Provenance (Archives) – Refers to the “office of origin” when talking about government records, or the person or body that created or received the records in the course of their business or personal activities. You may also see it called respect des fonds (respect for the source or creator). Put very briefly, it means that you would not remove one letter about a particular subject from one collection and another letter about the same subject from another collection and put them together. Archival “collections” must be kept together as collections.

Provenance (Museums) – Information on file regarding the object’s geographic point of origin, and its background and history of ownership.

Reprographic / Reprography – Reprographic is a collective term introduced by UNESCO for all processes—mechanical, photographic, or electronic means—used to copy, reproduce, or make facsimiles of documents, books, other paper-based materials, and photographic items. Reprographic processes include microfilming, digitizing, making photographic prints from negatives, and the now-old process of making photostatic copies.

Survey (Historic Preservation) – A process of identifying and gathering data on historic resources.

Survey (Museums) – A more detailed, comprehensive overview of the museum’s collections—a step above the amount of information gathered from an inventory.

The Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants Program has been made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.