Chapter 9 Archival Authority Records

Purpose and Scope

The purpose of Chapters 9 through 13 is to describe the elements of a fully documented archival authority record. Because of the variety of ways in which this data might be stored and used, DACS prescribes the required elements of information and describes how that content should be recorded. It does not prescribe the precise formats in which these elements are stored or presented to users.

Chapter 14 describes the ways in which authority records may be linked to other resources such as descriptions of archival materials, to other data about the entity such as biographical directories, or to contextual information in other countries and/or in other languages.


An archival authority record identifies and describes a personal, family, or corporate entity associated with a body of archival materials; documents relationships between records creators, the records created by them, and/or other resources about them; and may control the creation and use of access points in archival descriptions. The International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (ISAAR[CPF]) organizes the types of information found in an archival authority record into four areas:

  • Identity Area: the authoritative form of the name of the entity as established by cataloging rules such as those found in AACR2 or RDA, along with references to any variant forms of that name by which researchers might know that entity
  • Description Area: a description of the history and activities of the entity that are pertinent to the records with which it is associated, written in accordance with the rules in Chapter 11
  • Relationships Area: references to related persons, families, and corporate bodies
  • Control Area: management information regarding the creation and status of the record

Although archival authority records are similar to library authority records in that they both support the creation of standardized access points in descriptions, archival authority records support a much wider set of requirements than library authority records do and usually contain detailed information about records creators and the context of record creation.

Statement of Principles

Descriptions in authority files may be recorded electronically as part of an information system linked to descriptions of archival materials, in a paper-based system of finding aids in the manner of traditional see and see also references in a card catalog, or as a “shelf list” or official file strictly for internal staff control of the information.

Authority information may be used in a variety of ways. It can provide access to archival materials based on descriptions of records creators or the context of records creation that are linked to descriptions of physically dispersed records. It can provide users an understanding of the context underlying the creation and use of archival materials so they can better interpret their meaning and significance. It can help users identify records creators by providing descriptions of relationships between different entities, particularly in cases of administrative changes within corporate bodies or personal changes in families and individuals. Finally, standardized authority information allows for the exchange of descriptions of individuals, families, and corporate bodies between institutions, systems, and networks and across national and linguistic boundaries.

While these rules address the formation of descriptions for persons, families, and corporate bodies associated with the creation and custody of archival materials (frequently referred to in the rules as entities), authority records may also be created to document entities that are the subject of materials in such records. The same type of data is appropriate in either situation.

Levels of Description

DACS defines a number of elements that are useful in creating systems for describing creators of archival material. Regardless of the system, the output products must include at a minimum a set of discrete descriptive elements that convey standardized information about the creators being described. These DACS elements match the required elements found in the International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (ISAAR[CPF]).

Not all of the DACS elements are required in every archival authority record. Combinations of descriptive elements will vary depending on whether the archivist considers a specific authority record to be preliminary or complete and repository-specific needs and requirements for describing creators.

The following requirements specify particular elements that should be used in output products intended for the use of archivists or researchers in managing and using descriptions of archival creators. They articulate a “minimum” and “added value” usage of the elements defined by DACS but are not intended to preclude use of other descriptive data that a repository deems necessary for its own descriptive systems or products. DACS does not specify the order or arrangement of elements in a particular descriptive output. Some systems or output formats, such as MARC 21, RDA or EAC-CPF, provide specific guidance on the ordering of some or all elements. Others, such as a repository’s preliminary accession record or a print finding aid, should include DACS elements in a logical and consistent manner determined by the repository’s own procedures and standard practices.


An authority record with the minimum number of DACS elements includes:

  • Authorized form of name (see 10.1)
  • Type of entity (see 10.2)
  • Dates of existence (see 11.1)
  • Authority record identifier (see 13.2)

Added Value

An authority record using DACS elements to provide added value for researchers has all of the elements included in Minimum above, plus any other elements the repository wishes to include.


9.1 Record information about the relationships between descriptions of archival materials in the Related Materials Element (6.3).

9.2 Record information about the relationships between levels of arrangement within a description in the System of Arrangement Element (3.2).

Sources of Information

9.3 Take the information from any reliable source.

General Rule

9.4 Create an authority record for each person, family, or corporate body associated with the creation of archival materials as specified in the rule

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