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:
- The CRS Thesaurus
- AGIFT (Australian Governments’ Interactive Functions Thesaurus) version 1 (1999) (archived copy from NLA’s Australian Government Web Archive)
- AGIFT version 2 (2005) (archived copy from NLA’s Australian Government Web Archive)
- AGIFT version 3 (2015) – there’s additional information on this page (archived copy from NLA’s Australian Government Web Archive).
But the functions used in the Recordseach interface are slightly different again!
I’ve harvested the main terms from each of these versions:
- CRS Thesaurus – TXT | JSON
- AGIFT 1 – TXT | JSON
- AGIFT 2 – TXT | JSON
- AGIFT 3 – TXT | JSON
- RecordSearch interface – TXT | JSON
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:
- Differences between the CRS Thesaurus and RecordSearch interface
- Differences between the CRS Thesaurus and AGIFT version 1
- Differences between the AGIFT version 1 and AGIFT version 2
- Differences between the AGIFT version 2 and AGIFT version 3
- Differences between the AGIFT version 1 and AGIFT version 3
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’.
|n||486||- Community Protection||n||497||- National Security|
|487||-- Coastal Surveillance||498||-- Coastal Surveillance|
In AGIFT version 3, ‘Coastal surveillance’ was replaced by ‘Border protection’.
|497||- National Security||512||- National Security|
|n||498||-- Coastal Surveillance||n||513||-- Border Protection|
So between 1999 and 2015 ‘Community protection – Coastal surveillance’ has been replaced by ‘National security – Border protection’.
|n||486||- Community Protection||n||512||- National Security|
|487||-- Coastal Surveillance||513||-- 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.