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Eddy Put: What's in a Title? — Aboutness versus Intellectual Form in Archival Description

The special relationship between form and content, its archival representation and the way researchers deal with the opacity of archival material are known archival cruxes. Archivists are confronted with the limits of accessibility when they describe items in a purely formal way (accounts, sentence registers, notarial deeds, etc). The emergence of an online research context has made this problem even more pressing.

Sophisticated finding aids and powerful search engines very often create the highly deceptive illusion that researchers can have the content of millions of sources immediately at their fingertips. But archivists do not always succeed in bridging the gap between their formal descriptions and the content–based questions of researchers. The following text discusses the challenge and possible approaches of creating archival descriptions in the era of search engines and databases, especially for early modern serial archives.

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