Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) Fundamentals

Certificate Eligibility: 
5 ARC, 0.75 CEU
1 day
Max Attendees: 

Get an in-depth introduction to the key principles, concepts, and elements of Describing Archives: A Content Standard, the recently revised U.S. standard for describing archival materials and their creators. Learn how to implement and incorporate DACS into workflows for accessioning, arrangement, and description through discussions and hands-on work with a variety of exercises designed to help you identify required elements and create a variety of descriptions. This course focuses on application of DACS rules and concepts, which participants can integrate into local repository processes and descriptive outputs.



  • Attendees must watch a series of DACS Primer videos prior to the class.  
  • Attendees must bring a print copy of the DACS publication to the course OR a laptop and/or tablet to access the publication in the Standards Portal since your instructor will ask you to follow along or look at parts of this text. A print version is also available for purchase in the SAA Bookstore, and you’ll have the option to purchase the print version during the online registration process.

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

Learning Outcomes: 
Articulate what DACS is (and isn’t) and how its basic principles relate to archival theory and practice
Distinguish between minimal and value-added descriptions for archival materials and creators
Apply DACS rules to identify and formulate required elements of archival description
Learn how DACS can be applied to the various activities of the archival enterprise
Who Should Attend: 

Anyone whose work includes accessioning, arranging, and describing, or who supervises employees who do that work

What You Should Already Know: 

Familiarity with the processes of archival arrangement and description

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.
6. Ethics: Convey transparency of actions taken during arrangement and description and respect privacy, confidentiality, and cultural sensitivity of archival materials.
"The practice exercises gave us a chance to apply them with real information needed to practice to excel at the task. Also, your verbal examples cited were helpful in understanding how to apply DACS."
"Group work and accompanying discussion. All of the feedback was very educational. The entire presentation was clear, even-paced, and informative." – Peter K. Steinberg
"Everyone should take this - it's a good how-to-write-finding-aids workshop, so it does double-duty!" - Judy Farrar
"Identity elements, especially title, will make me rethink how I will supply titles in the future." – Burton Altman
"Clarification of what DACS is and is not, emphasis on elements rather than name formation, demonstration of output options, and the exercises were all very helpful." – Melissa Watterworth
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