Description and Access in the University Archives

Gregory Wiedeman
University Archivist

M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives

Collecting Areas and Department History

About us

5 archivists

The University Archives

Collecting Background

SUNY Records Retention

University records are public records, subject to FOIL

Records Collecting in Practice

Prioritizing Born-Digital

Ben Goldman, “Outfitting a Born-Digital Archives Program”
Practical Technology for Archives   Issue 2 (June 2014)

Building an Institutional Records Collecting Program

How do you collect records?

Transfer Scripts



Building Digital Infrastructure

Connections through APIs

APIs help enable maintainable workflows

Tools for Transferring/Accessioning

Open, Interconnected Workflows

  1. Detect a new accession
  2. Post accession record to ArchivesSpace API
  3. Ingest into digital repository
  4. Que for review
  5. Extract existing metadata during description
  6. Post description to ArchivesSpace API
  7. Export data to public access system

Data Modeling

Data Modeling in Archives

Focus on the challenging work, automate the busywork

Not all can or should be automated


Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Old Priciples, 1-6

  1. Records in archives possess unique characteristics
  2. The principle of respect des fonds is the basis of archival arrangement and description
  3. Arrangement involves the identification of groupings within the material
  4. Description reflects arrangement
  5. The rules of description apply to all archival materials, regardless of form or medium
  6. The principles of archival description apply equally to records created by corporate bodies, individuals, or families

Old Princples, 7-8

Revised Principles, 1-4

  1. Archival description expresses professional ethics and values
  2. Users are the fundamental reason for archival description
  3. Archival description must be clear about what archivists know, what they don’t know, and how they know it.

Records, agents, events, and the relationships between them are the four fundamental concepts that constitute archival description.

Revised Principles, 5-7

Revised Principles, 8-11

DACS Core Elements

* Reference Code (Required)
* Name and Location of Repository (Required)
* Title (Required)
* Date (Required)
* Extent (Required)
* Name of Creator(s) (Required)
* Scope and Content (Required)
* Conditions Governing Access (Required)
* Languages and Scripts of the Material (Required)

* Administrative/Biographical History (Optimum)
* Access points (Optimum)

DACS Added Value Elements

* Finding Aids (Added Value)	
* Custodial History (Added Value)
* Immediate Source of Acquisition (Added Value)
* Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use (Added Value)
* System of Arrangement (Added Value)
* Technical Access (Added Value)
* Physical Access (Added Value)
* Appraisal, Destruction, and Scheduling Information (Added Value)
* Accruals (Added Value)
* Publication Note (Added Value)
* Notes (Added Value)
* Description Control (Added Value)
* Existence and Location of Originals (Added Value)
* Existence and Location of Copies (Added Value)
* Related Archival Materials (Added Value)

DACS Principles revision

What do you think?

Description Exercise

Extensible Processing in the University Archives

Handling Scale with our Principles

Yearbook Collection

Don’t describe containers

General Reference Collection

Provost’s Office Records

Division of Research Records

Digitization on Demand

Users don’t want help finding thigs, they want help getting things

Extensible Processing

What do you think?

Effective Description enables Access

User Experience (UX) Design

User Testing on a Budget

Using Description for Context

Espy Project

Espy Project

Exposing Data in Context

Does Linked Data align with the Archival Mission?

As we start seeing archival collections themselves as data, Linked Data may not be a good fit