The New Arrangement and Description Certificate Program

Solveig De Sutter, SAA Education Director

By now you’ve heard the news: SAA's Committee on Education has developed an Arrangement and Description Certificate Program—A&D for short—to help archivists ensure that their skills and knowledge are current and to give them the opportunity to engage in learning experiences throughout their careers. The initial courses are being launched this spring and anyone can take them!

“The program allows archivists to immerse themselves in a single topic—a benefit at a time when the field is changing so quickly,” said Jennifer Pelose, chair of the Committee on Education. 

About the Curriculum

The A&D curriculum provides an integrated, programmatic framework for archivists at various levels within their institutions whose work includes arrangement and description. There are four tiers:

  • Foundational
  • Tactical and Strategic
  • Tools and Services
  • Transformational

The Foundational courses introduce the basics. The subsequent tiers build on those lessons through specialized, advanced courses addressing tactics and tools that are useful for arrangement and description, management, organization, and preservation techniques. The courses by tier are listed on the next page.

Earning a Certificate

In order to earn an Arrangement and Description Certificate of Completion, participants will need to pass a course-specific exam that address the following core competencies:

  • Arrangement: Understand the process of organizing materials with respect to their provenance and original order to protect their context and facilitate access.
  • Description: Analyze and describe the attributes of a record or record collection to facilitate identification, management, and understanding of the work.
  • Descriptive Standards: Apply rules and practices that codify the information used to represent archival materials in discovery tools according to published structural guidelines.
  • Management: Demonstrate ability to manage physical and intellectual control over archival materials.
  • Discovery: Create tools to facilitate access and disseminate descriptive records of archival materials.
  • Ethics: Convey transparency of actions taken during arrangement and description and respect privacy, confidentiality, and cultural sensitivity of archival materials.
  • Risk Management: Analyze threats and implement measures to minimize ethical and institutional risks.

Participants working toward a certificate must take and pass three Foundational courses; two Tactical and Strategic courses including either a Privacy and Confidentiality or Copyright course; one course in Tools and Services; and one course in the Transformational tier. More knowledgeable participants can elect to test out of the Foundational courses. The A&D Certificate is valid for five years.

Courses by Tier


  • UPDATED: Fundamentals of Arrangement and Description [Required]
  • REVISED: Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) [Required]
  • NEW: MARC for Archival Description (1-day)
  • REVISED: Encoded Archival Description (EAD3) (2-day)
  • Metadata Overview for Archivists webinar (applicable to A&D and DAS)
  • Ethics for Archivists (available fall 2016) (1-day)
  • Forming Names According to RDA—Part I (webinar)
  • Appraisal webinar (available spring 2016)
  • Rights and Confidentiality webinar (available mid-2016)

Tactical and Strategic

  • Arrangement and Description of Electronic Records Parts I & II (applicable to A&D & DAS)
  • Architectural Records: Managing Design & Construction Records (2-day) 
  • Fundamentals of Project Management for Archivists (1-day)
  • REVISED: Photographs: Archival Principles & Practices (available late 2016) (2-day) 
  • Copyright Issues in Digital Archives (applicable to A&D & DAS) (1-day)
  • Privacy and Confidentiality Issues in Digital Archives (applicable to A&D & DAS) (1-day)
  • Grant Writing for Arrangement and Description (1-day)
  • NEW: Arrangement and Description for AV Materials (1-day)
  • NEW: Arranging and Describing Ephemera (available late 2016)
  • NEW: Arrangement and Description for Outreach or Visualizing Description (available 2017)
  • NEW: Essential Coding for Archivists (available 2017)

Tools and Services

  • Style Sheets for EAD—Delivering Your Finding Aids on the Web
  • Forming Names According to RDA—Part II (webinar)
  • NEW: Cross Walking Metadata (available late 2016)
  • NEW: How DACS Fits with TEI, METS, MODS, and MARC (available late 2016)
  • NEW: Determining Options For and Selecting Tools webinar (available 2017)


  • REVISED: Financial Management for Archivists (1-day)
  • UPDATED: Implementing More Product, Less Process (1-day)
  • SAA Standard: EAC-CPF (1-day)
  • NEW: Authorities and RDF (available 2017)
  • NEW: Linked Archival Open Data (available 2017)


To learn more about SAA’s new Arrangement and Description Certificate Program, contact