National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)

Establishing authenticity

Authenticity is a central concept in the preservation of records- it means that a record ‘conforms with the original’. It may not change or be corrupted if that affects this.

Take for example a parliamentary decree written on a paper document, reflecting the date and the names of those involved. This information gives the document more credibility as an original and valuable source of knowledge. Nothing in this parliamentary record may be changed after it has been created. Should unlawful modifications nevertheless be introduced, they will generally be clearly visible.

It is more difficult to determine the authenticity of digital records, to assess whether the current representation accords with the original, and if the original function of the record has been preserved. Uncertainty about the document creator, or the business process in which the record was used, brings the authenticity of a record into question.