Monday, November 2, 2015

Archival Description

Principles of description
  1. Principle of provenance
  2. Sanctity of original order
  3. Arrangement determines description
  4. Description proceeds from the general to the specific
Standards: ISAD(G) and RAD
Both RAD and ISAD(G) are based on four key rules for multi-level archival description

  1. Describe material from the general to the specific
  2. Give only the information relevant to the level of description
  3. Link each description to its next higher unit – identify the level of description, if applicable
  4. Don’t repeat information
The International Council on Archives

ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description, Second edition 1999
This standard provides general guidance for the preparation of archival descriptions. It is to be used in conjunction with existing national standards or as the basis for the development of national standards.

ISAAR (CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families, Second edition, 2004

This standard provides guidance for preparing archival authority records which provide descriptions of entities (corporate bodies, persons and families) associated with the creation and maintenance of archives.

Canadian Committee on Archival Description Rules for Archival Description (RAD)

  • Published in 1990 by the Bureau of Canadian Archivists, RAD provides archivists with a set of rules which “aim to provide a consistent and common foundation for the description of archival material within fonds, based on traditional archival principles.”
  • Developed with reference to AARC2
  • Becoming the Canadian standard for proper archival description
Basic RAD: An Introduction to the preparation of fonds- and series-level descriptions using the Rules for Archival Description by Jeff O’Brien
SCA Outreach Archivist October 1997
The purpose of this document is to explain what RAD (the Rules for Archival Description) is, what it is supposed to do and how to use it .The Guide also contains a “short version” of RAD, identifying and explaining the minimum elements necessary for an acceptable RAD-compliant records description. It is in no way meant to supplant the RAD manual but may be used in concert with the manual.

Basic RAD elements
1. Title and statement of responsibility
4. Dates of creation
5. Physical description area
7. Archival description area
8. Note area

Elements are repeated in a hierarchical manner, working from the general (fonds, sous fonds) to the specific (series, subseries, files/folders/items). In other words, these elements are repeated for each level you are describing.

To see records and for additional information see:
The Archivist’s Toolkit: Arrangement and Description

used by many American archives and some university archives in Canada
see: Center of Southwest Studies: Special Collections Archival Procedure Manual

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