Describing Architectural Records

Architectural records present many challenges, and may be described and accessed a number of ways. Although access points are generally determined by the needs of the primary audience (architects, museum curators, etc.), a few elements tend to form a minimum level of access for architectural projects: architect, project name, client, date, and geographic location.

The collection of an architect or firm may be arranged using the Standard Series for Architecture and Landscape Design Records: A Tool for the Arrangement and Description of Archival Collections by Waverly Lowell and Kelcy Shepherd, who received SAA's C. F. W. Coker Award in 2001, for their development of the standard series tool. The Coker award recognizes innovation in the creation of archival tools that allow for the production of effective finding aids.

The standard series tool, which can be downloaded directly from the Environmental Design Archives at UC-Berkeley, includes information on the following series: Personal Papers, Professional Papers, Faculty Papers, Office Records, Project Records, and Additional Donations. Finding aids created using the Standard Series for Architectural and Landscape Design Records: A Tool for the Arrangement and Description of Archival Collections include:

In Architectural Records: Managing Design and Construction Records (SAA, 2006), Waverly Lowell and Tawny Ryan Nelb address the issues that arise when working with architectural records, including description.

The goal of description is to create a finding aid that provides information on the content and intellectual arrangement of the material in a specific collection. Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is the standard for encoding finding aids and making collection information available online. See the EAD FAQ on the SAA web site for more information about EAD. Additional resources for describing archival records can be found on the Standards Portal SAA web page.

Resources:

Chesarino, C. (2012). An Analysis of Finding Aid Structure and Authority Control for Large Architectural Collections. https://doi.org/10.17615/ag2z-bx21

Cook, M., & Procter, M. (1989). Description of architectural and other plans. A manual of archival description. Aldershot, Hants, England: Gower

Daniels, M. (2000). Arrangement of architectural records. In M. Daniels, & D. Peycere (Eds.), A guide to the archival care of architectural records 19th-20th centuryParis, France: International Council on Archives Architectural Records Section.

Daniels, M. (2000). Description of architectural records. In M. Daniels, & D. Peycere (Eds.), A guide to the archival care of architectural records 19th-20th century. Paris, France: International Council on Archives Architectural Records Section.

Gawne, E. (2003). Cataloguing architectural drawings. Journal of the Society of Archivists, 24 (2).

Hamburger, S. (2004). Architectural records: Arrangement, description, and preservation. Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference.

Lowell, W. B. & Nelb, T. (2006). Architectural records: Managing design and construction records. Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists.

Porter, V., & Thornes, R. (1994). A guide to the description of architectural drawings. New York: G.K. Hall.

Shepherd, K., & Lowell, W. B. (2010). Standard series for architecture and landscape design records: A tool for the arrangement and description of archival collections. Berkeley, Calif.: Environmental Design Archives, University of California, Berkeley.