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Arrangement & Description

Processing of archival material involves first arranging then describing it.

Arrangement involves analysing the records to see who or what created them, how and why they were created, what functions and activities they document, when they were created and what their physical nature is. While the records themselves provide the most concrete source for this information published histories and the recollections of the records creators themselves will also provide valuable insight to this procedure.

Description is the process of explaining that arrangement so that people - researchers, administrators, whomever - who want to use the records know where to look to find the answers to their questions. Arrangement, therefore, is the process of studying the records to discover how they relate to the entities that created them. Description is the way of sharing that knowledge with everyone else.  

Taken from "http://scaa.usask.ca/rad/radtoc.htm#section1"

Arranging Archival records

Web | Archives and Records Management Resources by Oliver W. Holmes (1964)

Web | Archives - What they are and how to use them by Goucher College Library

Article | Putting the Parts of the Whole Together: Systematic Arrangement of Archives by Terry Eastwood

Article | Thinking Outside of the Box by Dan Davies

Article | Archivalterity: Rethinking Original Order Heather MacNeil 

Slides | Archival Arrangement & Description by Becky Simmons

Newsletter | "With Respect to Original Order": Changing Values in Archival Arrangement by Robert Edwards featured in the AABC 2001 Winter Newsletter

Article | Processing for Access Uli Haller


Describing archival records

Online Handbook | Standards for Archival Description: A Handbook by SAA

Guide | Basics of RAD by SCAA

Blog | How Do Archivists Describe Collections? (or, How to Read a Finding Aid) by PAMA

Article | The Development of Descriptive Standards in Canada: A Progress Report by Kent M. Haworth

Article | Origin and Development of the Concept of Archival Description by Luciana Duranti

Article | Grounding Archival Description in the Functional Requirements for Evidence by David Bearman & Wendy Duff

Article | The Reclamation of Archival Description: The Canadian Perspective by Wendy Duff & Kent M. Haworth

Article | Managing the Present: Metadata as Archival Description by David A. Wallace

Article | Metadata Strategies and Archival Description: Comparing Apples to Oranges by Heather MacNeil

What information needs to be recorded in order to ensure that the longevity of a digital record? Let's talk about Rules for Archival Description and PREMIS.


How do you manage photographs when you cannot determine who owned them or who holds copyright over them or you don't know anything about the content of the photograph itself.

RAD & Examples of Archival Finding Aids

  1. The Complete Rules for Archival Description

  2. RAD Basics by Jeff O'Brien

Guide | Archival Processing Physical Arrangement: A guide to processing archival collections by George A. Smathers Library

Manual | Arrangement & Description Manual for Processing Archival Collections by Alaska State Historical Advisory Board

Sample | Mark Winston Fonds by SFU Archives on AToM

Sample | Creating Finding Aids by Benson Ford Research Center

Sample | Oral History Processing Manual by Brooklyn Historical Society

Template | Reference Publication Identification Worksheet Template for Data Entry

Template | Reference Inventory Identification Worksheet Template for Data Entry