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Taxonomy – Thesaurus – Classification – Indexing - April 2002

What a strange world we live in?

When I first started in the Microfilm Bureau business you received a box of paper and you prepared them for filming [unfolding, removal of staples, right side up an the header facing north, south east or west as per the camera’s requirement] and then you filmed, starting at the first page and continued until you finished and depending on the reduction ration used you indexed the finished single roll of somewhere between 2,200 to 2,500 per 100 foot or 30.3 metre roll indexed with a Start Identifier = From XXX to a Finish Identifier = To XXX in a date or alpha format.

When files were filmed for insertion into a jacket environment one titled the jacket header with the file identifier e.g. No. 893721 Bill Bloggs, Personnel File and maybe a date field. If the file was more than 60 pages you identified each jacket with of 7, 2 of 7 etc. The process was usually charged per character typed or a set fee for less that X number of characters e.g. 20 or 40 characters.

Was this a good deal for the client? Probably not, but at the time an accepted procedure.

Roll on to 2002 and where are we now? A totally different environment.

Records Management has come a long way since the 1970’s and sophisticated Document and Records Management systems are in place. Many organisations capture [or at least they should capture at the point of receipt] all correspondence sent to the organisation form external sources or other divisions or sections. It is my opinion that any Organisation who is not implementing this practice that they are as a minimum, derelict in their duty or at worst, morally and possibly legally irresponsible.

During the past 12 months I noted a rave review by someone in the computing industry who had attended a training course on Taxonomy. Taxonomy was the new order and would save computing from its inability to manage information with a new solution.

I was intrigued so I began to research the subject.

Was this a new buzzword, or another blue sky process as a cure-all to our need to locate information in a discrete single answer and in a timely manner?

The answer lays somewhere in the past. If we take the word of Encyclopedia.com @ Encyclopedia.com they advise the following: taxonomy - taxonomy: see classification. ... When we go to classification we are advised classification -> History - The earliest known system of classification is that of Aristotle, who attempted in the 4th cent. BC to group animals according to such criteria as mode of reproduction and possession or lack of red blood. Aristotle's pupil Theophrastus classified plants according to their uses and methods of cultivation.

So there you go, there is noting news under the sun! Taxonomy is not a new buzzword or blue sky process but a tried and true rehash of a 4th cent. BC process used, or created by Aristotle.

I can now sleep soundly in my bed in the knowledge that Aristotle and not the new breed of blue sky merchants are in charge!

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president and national director, has been involved in records management for 30 years. He has his own consulting and training business near Perth, Western Australia, and has tutored in recordkeeping and archival storage and preservation at Perth’s Edith Cowan University. Phone: +61 (0)8 9291 6925; mobile: 0417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff

The author, Laurie Varendorff of the Varendorff Records Management Consultancy - TVC - Helping clients manage their e-World gives permission for the redistribution or republishing of this article by individuals and non profit professional organisations without cost based on the condition that he as well as the URL of the article are recognised at the introduction of the article when redistributed or republished.

SPECIAL NOTE: Use of this article by publishers, commercial, government, or educational organisations requires a financial agreement to be negotiated with Laurie as the copyright holder for this work.