Archival System

Background Information to the GAIMS System

The acronym GAIMS stands for Government Archives Integrated Management System. GAIMS was developed in 1985 as an alternative to the record group system, commonly referred to as "series lists".

Rapid and ongoing administrative change in Government, (corporatisation, restructuring, disestablishment, and transfer of functions between departments) had led to difficulties in easily describing archives in the record group system.

Any archives transferred to Archives New Zealand after 1987 should be described within the GAIMS system and we hope that this information sheet will help you use this system.

Terms Used to Describe Archives

AGENCY – An "agency" is the term for the department that transferred the documents to Archives New Zealand. These are described either by a mnemonic such as IM (Immigration Department) and AD (Army Department), or a code such as AAEG (External Affairs) if the document has been accessed through our GAIMS system.

SERIES – When an accession of records is processed, each particular type of record is given a series number, or added to an existing series. In some cases files may be further defined by a sub-series number eg. AIR Series 1 sub series 26. In the GAIMS system this replaces the accession number as the necessary reference.

ORGANISATION – This term describes any body which is broadly independent or autonomous (eg. government, church, society, company, or family).

PREDECESSOR – A predecessor agency/series is one that existed and administered a particular function before the one you are currently researching. The element from which the function comes is the predecessor.

SUCCESSOR – A successor agency/series is one that administered a particular function after the one you are currently researching.

CONTROLLING – A controlling agency/series is one that had administrative authority over another, eg. a head office controls a district office.

CONTROLLED – A controlled agency/series is one that has another agency/series providing administrative authority or access over it, eg. files can be controlled by indexes and/or registers.

RELATED – A related series is a series forming part of the same records system, usually with mutual cross references within the records involved.

The Record Group System

At Archives New Zealand, archives received prior to 1985 have been arranged and described within 'record groups'. This means that archives are described in the context of the agencies producing them.

Each record group has a mnemonic reference based on its titles, or previous title. For example, records from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are to be found in the External Affairs Department record group.

Some record groups contain archives that came to that agency from a previous agency. These are not shown separately, but may be found by looking at the series list for the agency's successor agencies.

Changes in GAIMS from the Record Group System

There are several major differences which affect the approach needed to use the GAIMS system.

a. Agencies and ​series are described as separate elements, rather than having series described and numbered within record groups.

Often one series has been controlled by more than one agency, and has had archives transferred by more than one agency. This can now be documented consistently.

b. Defunct and predecessor agencies are described in their own right rather than within the record group that subsequently transferred their records to Archives New Zealand.

A researcher trying to find records of, for instance, the Aliens Tribunal (1940) will not need to know which agency ultimately transferred such records to Archives New Zealand.
Documentation about the Aliens Tribunal is accessible by that agency's name, and leads to predecessor and successor agencies. Even if no records of a defunct agency are known to be extant, the agency itself can be documented.

c. A single item can be described within more than one series.

Government agencies are fond of re-classifying their records. As a result, files more often than not belong to more than one series (classification system) through their active life. Items have traditionally been described as archives only with their final series. This remains the prime emphasis in GAIMS; but previous classifications are also recorded to enable researchers to trace files by their earlier references, and to reveal more clearly the nature of the classification systems themselves. Thus an item may appear on several lists, but it will not have the same archives reference throughout. Its date range will also most probably include dates in parentheses: see (d).

d. A distinction is made between dates of series and dates of holdings.

Sometimes a series is known to have existed for a certain period but only a fragment survives. Conversely, a series may have lasted only a short time but included items drawn from previous series and covering a greater date range. The latter instance is shown by the use of parentheses for the date range of items affected, eg; (1939) 1945-60. In this example, the item contains papers, or entries, from 1939 to 1960, but items before 1945 are from a previous series rather than from the series being listed. The main point to remember here is that dates not in parentheses are dates for the series being listed.

Back to top