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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"The facts about fax" : facsimile transmission and archives Wodarczak, Erwin


In recent years, facsimile transmission, or "fax", has become the leading medium of written telecommunication. At the same time, the basic technology for fax has been in existence for some 150 years. Nevertheless, there has been little analysis of facsimile transmission in an archival context. This thesis aims to fill at least part of this gap in archival literature. The first chapter is an overview of the history of fax, and examines the various transmission and recording techniques developed over the years, discusses the uses to which these techniques have been put, and describes potential sources from which an archives might acquire facsimile documents. The next chapter illustrates modern facsimile processes in detail, analyzes the chemical and physical make-up of papers and inks used, and explores the conservation problems inherent in certain kinds of facsimile paper. On the basis of this technical examination, the rest of the dissertation discusses the treatment of fax documents in the archival context, in terms of both theory and practice, with specific reference to law, archival theory, and records management. The nature of facsimiles as records and the characteristics of their physical form are amply discussed; and their legal value is examined to determine the criteria to be used in their appraisal. In this regard, special attention is given to the way in which the legal profession handles problems of authenticity and security inherent in fax transmission, and to the way in which organizations deal with the operational and legal problems presented by facsimiles. Archivists have to be alert to changes in communication technology, in order to determine if archival theory and practice have to adapt to such changes. In the case of facsimile transmission, this study concludes that no fundamental changes in archival theory are required in order to deal with it effectively in the archival context. What is needed is a basic understanding of the technology involved, and a thorough knowledge of archival concepts and of relevant legal principles.

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