C.F.W. Coker Award for Description

Purpose and Criteria for Selection:

The C.F.W. Coker Award for Description recognizes finding aids, finding aid systems, projects that involve innovative development in archival description, or descriptive tools that enable archivists to produce effective finding aids. To merit consideration for the award, nominees must set national standards, represent a model for archival description, or otherwise have a substantial impact on descriptive practices. The following types of works or activities may be considered:

  1. Finding aids, including, among others, multi-institutional guides, record surveys, repository guides, special subject lists, finding aids to individual collections or records groups, and narrative descriptions of holdings.
  2. Finding aid systems, including, among others, manual or automatic indexing systems, computer databases, or current awareness systems for notifying users of holdings.
  3. Descriptive tools that enable archivists to produce more effective finding aids, including, among others, subject thesauri, authority files, data element dictionaries, manuals establishing descriptive standards, and such reference works as atlases and administrative histories.
  4. Projects that involve innovative developments in archival description, including, among others, cooperative ventures that result in the exchange of finding aid information among repositories, efforts at building national information systems, and survey projects.


Individuals, institutions, or groups of individuals or institutions. There are no restrictions on the format in which information is presented. Both published and unpublished works produced during the preceding calendar year are eligible. This award is not intended for books or articles on descriptive theory. Works and activities must involve projects located primarily in North America.

Sponsor and Funding:

Established in 1984, the award is named in memory of C.F.W. Coker, a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists who worked at the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress, where he was the head of the Reference and Reader Service Section in the Manuscript Division. Coker was also director of the Modern Archives Institute, editor of The American Archivist, and general editor of the first SAA Basic Manual Series.The award is funded by the Society of American Archivists Foundation.


A certificate and a cash prize of $250.

First Awarded:


Selection Committee:

The Coker Award Subcommittee of the SAA Awards Committee consists of four members of the Society of American Archivists (one of whom shall be the current chair of the Description Section, who shall serve a term concurrent with his or her office) and one of the co-chairs of the Awards Committee (ex officio). One of the remaining members of the subcommittee shall be appointed each year by the SAA President-elect to serve a three-year term. The senior member of the subcommittee in years of service shall serve as chair and present the award.

Submission Deadline and Nomination Form:

Click here to preview the nomination form and/or to start a nomination. All nominations must be submitted by February 28 of each year. 

C.F.W. Coker Award Recipients:

2023:   Not awarded

2022:   Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries' In Her Own Right Project

2021:   Indigenous Digital Archives DigiTreaties Treaties Explorer (created by the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Indigenous Digital Archives, in partnership with the National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of Innovation and the Conservation Department, and Digirati)

2020:   Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia (A4BLiP)

2019:   Lou Reed papers processed by the Archives Unit on behalf of the Music Division in the Library for the Performing Arts of the New York Public Library

2018:   The University of California Guidelines for Born-Digital Archival Description

2017:   K.J. Rawson, Digital Transgender Archive, College of the Holy Cross

2016:   Not awarded

2015:  The Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Project

2014:  Remixing Archival Metadata Project, University of Miami

2013:  Princeton University Library Archival Description Working Group: Daniel Santamaria (chair), Maureen Callahan, John Delaney, Shaun Ellis, Regine Heberlein, Jon Stroop, and Don Thornbury

2012:  Not awarded

2011:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

2010:  North Carolina State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center

2009:   World War II: Guide to Records Relating to U.S. Military Participation

2008:   The Archivists’ Toolkit™ (AT)

2007:   Greg Bradsher

2006:  The Walt Whitman Archive

2005:   Online Archives of California

2004:   RLG's EAD Advisory Group

2003:   Not awarded

2002:   Not awarded

2001:   Waverly Lowell, Kelcy Shepherd

2000:   Not awarded

1999:   Francis X. Blouin, Leonard A. Coombs, Claudia Carlen, Elizabeth Yakel, Katherine J. Gill

1998:   Encoded Archival Description Working Group

1997:   Robert B. Matchette; Honorable Mention: Mary Lynn McCree Bryan

1996:   Not awarded

1995:   Robert M. Kvasnicka

1994:   Not awarded

1993:   Diane Vogt-O'Connor

1992:   Not awarded

1991:   David Brumberg, Elaine Engst

1990:   The Center for Legislative Archives (NARA)

1989:   Scott Cline

1988:   Frederick Honhart

1987:   Not awarded

1986:   Nancy Sahli, Lisa B. Weber

1985:   Debra L. Newman

1984:   Roy Turnbaugh