Tracking changes to NAA functions

Functions are used to model the activities of government. In the CRS system, functions are performed by agencies, and agencies create series. So by following the links between functions, agencies, and series, it should be possible to see how this model of government is reflected in the records described and digitised in RecordSearch.

For some context on the history and use of functions in the National Archives of Australia see ‘Natural language searching and government thesauri’ by Marian Hoy.

Although you can browse and search for agencies by function in RecordSearch, it’s not clear what functions thesaurus is actually in use and how this affects search results. So before following the trail from functions to series, I had to pull together some data about the functions themselves. The thesauruses created and used by the National Archives seem to have gone through four versions:

But the functions used in the Recordseach interface are slightly different again!

I’ve harvested the main terms from each of these versions:

I’ve saved the terms in lower case for the sake of normalisation. I’ve also replaced non-ascii characters (like curly quotes).

AGIFT is made available by the National Archives of Australia under a CC-BY-NC-ND licence.

Differences between versions

How have these attempts to model the workings of government changed? To explore this I’ve used Python’s difflib library to highlight changes between the text versions linked above. Here are the results:

One significant change across the three versions of AGIFT is how the patrolling of Australia’s borders is described. Under the term ‘Security’, AGIFT version 1 included ‘Community protection’, which included the narrower term ‘Coastal surveillance’.

In AGIFT version 2, ‘Community protection’ was replaced by ‘National security’.

n486  - Community Protectionn497  - National Security
487    -- Coastal Surveillance498    -- Coastal Surveillance

In AGIFT version 3, ‘Coastal surveillance’ was replaced by ‘Border protection’.

497  - National Security512  - National Security
n498    -- Coastal Surveillancen513    -- Border Protection

So between 1999 and 2015 ‘Community protection – Coastal surveillance’ has been replaced by ‘National security – Border protection’.

n486  - Community Protectionn512  - National Security
487    -- Coastal Surveillance513    -- Border Protection

There’s more information on the changes in AGIFT version 3 available from this page. Strangely, this page seems to have been removed from the NAA site.