Frequently Asked Questions

What do the terms fonds and collection mean?

The terms fonds and collection refer to two different types of record accumulations acquired by SFU Archives.

A fonds is a body of records that was made and received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their everyday affairs. These records were accumulated over time and kept for their enduring value as a future reference resource and/or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator. The key characteristics of a fonds are provenance (records are created by one individual or organization) and original order (the way the records were originally ordered by their creators can be significant in interpreting their meaning).

For example, SFU Archives is home to the W.A.C. Bennett fonds. The records document Bennett's personal finances, his participation in charitable, fraternal, and service organizations, the operation of his hardware store, his involvement in the Social Credit Party of BC, and his longstanding tenure as the Province's premier.  All of these records were either made or received by Bennett. They include correspondence with his constituents, the financial accounts of his hardware businesses, and speeches he made as the President of the Kelowna Branch of the Canadian Red Cross.  Wherever possible, the records original order was maintained. For example, the fonds includes a series of files that were created and kept in the Premier's Office over a period of 20 years. Their order has not been altered.

In contrast, a collection is a body of records assembled by a person, organization or repository from a variety of sources (i.e. multi-provenancial) usually on the basis of some subject or theme and arranged in such a way as to make the records easily accessible for their purely informational value.

For example, John Doe, a student of British Columbia political history, decides to create a W.A.C. Bennett collection. The collection might include political posters and buttons featuring Bennett, interviews with Bennett recorded from television, and letters sent by Bennett to several different individuals. None of these records were made or received by John Doe, but were instead collected and purchased by him. The organizing principle of the collection is its focus on Bennett as a subject of interest.

SFU Archives acquires both fonds and collections.