Arrangement and Description: Fundamentals

Certificate Eligibility: 
10 ARC, 1.5 CEU
2 days
Max Attendees: 

This course introduces the basic principles, concepts, and tools that archivists use to establish both physical and intellectual control over archival records. These include developing accession records and processing work plans; identifying common arrangement schemes for certain types of collections, as well as various formats; and how to physically organize materials during processing. You will also learn the essential elements of a finding aid and the major descriptive standards that support these elements. Particular emphasis will be placed on the day-to-day decisions made in arranging and describing archival materials. You’ll also participate in a set of exercises designed to emphasis the principles and concepts of arrangement and description.


*This course is a requirement of the Arrangement & Description Certificate Program.

Learning Outcomes: 
Grasp the principals and concepts of arrangement
Apply the common arrangement of various types of collections and material formats
Identify the essential elements of a finding aid
Describe the major standards supporting these elements
Identify basic tools that can be employed to facilitate management of arrangement and description
Demonstrate an understanding of best practice
Who Should Attend?: 

New archives professionals and graduate students in archival programs who have little or no experience in the arrangement and description of archival records; it can also be taken as a refresher course for those who have not kept abreast of changing standards and practices.

What You Should Already Know: 

Participants are expected to have basic archival training and education.

A&D Core Competency: 
1. Arrangement: Understand the process of organizing materials with respect to their provenance and original order to protect their context and facilitate access.
2. Description: Analyze and describe details about the attributes of a record or collection of records to facilitate identification, management, and understanding of the work.
3. Descriptive Standards: Apply rules and practices that codify the content of information used to represent archival materials in discovery tools according to published structural guidelines.
4. Management: Demonstrate ability to manage physical and intellectual control over archival materials.
5. Discovery: Create tools to facilitate access and disseminate descriptive records of archival materials.
6. Ethics: Convey transparency of actions taken during arrangement and description and respect privacy, confidentiality, and cultural sensitivity of archival materials.
"I appreciated the workbook as it contains not only the notes but examples and helpful sources. ... I also liked the group exercises, which helped me make sense of materials we had just learned."
"The course as a whole was the most valuable. It refreshed some of the principles I already learned in my A&D course at school and helped clarify material that I'd struggled with."
"The description of the elements of a finding aid was extremely valuable to me, as it wasn't something I was very comfortable with previously, and I will be using it in my work."
"I found the course packet to be very useful—it clearly and concisely summarizes the key information and gives references for further work."
"Discussing the content that should and should not go in certain parts of a finding aid (e.g., scope & content or biographical/historical information) and proper DACS formatting were the most important to me. I understand the basic principles of arrangement fairly well but have never been confident about how I put things into EAD finding aids."
Co-Sponsor Provides: 
  • Classroom-style (6-foot tables with two chairs or 8-foot tables with three chairs) 
  • Large table at the front of the room for the instructor to use to spread out teaching materials
  • A separate table or two for the break setup
  • Registration table Instructor workstation (a desktop or laptop that runs Microsoft PowerPoint and has an available USB port)
  • LCD projector and projection screen
  • Lapel microphone, if possible
  • Coffee/tea/water for morning break 
  • Water/assorted soft drinks for afternoon break