Standards for Archival Description: A Handbook
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The purpose of this handbook is to help archivists in the United States become better acquainted with the large number of standards available for use in descriptive practice. It attempts to be both (1) an introduction, for archivists who are entering the standards arena for the first time, to the existing standards and the organizations that develop them, and (2) a reference tool for archivists who are generally familiar with the standards but need assistance in tracing sources and interconnections among available standards and their specific applications to archival practice.

The handbook is a direct result and intended as an extension of the report of the Working Group on Standards for Archival Description (WGSAD).1 The report concentrated on how and why standards are developed. It provided an intellectual framework for evaluating what existing standards are important for archival practice and what areas need further development.

This handbook has a much more practical intent: it focuses on the use of standards. Many archivists were simply overwhelmed when they first saw in the original report the long list of standards that WGSAD had identified as applicable in some way to archival description. It might be nice to know that something like ANSI Z39.19, Guidelines for Thesaurus Structure, Construction, and Use, exists, but what does a working archivist do with it in a real-world, real-time archives?

Scope of coverage

In preparing this handbook, the list of potentially useful standards grew from the report's original 105 to more than 300. In the words of one computer wag, "The marvelous thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from." Of course too many choices means no choice at all, simply chaos.

Finally, 86 of these standards were considered significant enough to warrant full entries in this handbook; some 157 more are briefly cited in the "Also of Interest" listings at the ends of each chapter or in the "Related Standards" sections of the full entries. It must be remembered that this handbook contains only those standards that might be of use in the descriptive process; the SAA Standards Board, in a separate project, has identified more than 550 standards that affect archival work in all its various aspects.2

Several factors influenced the choice of what to cover in detail, what to present only in summary form, and what to omit.

Definition of "description." The types of standards included reflect the broad definition of description adopted by the Working Group early in its deliberations:

Archival description is the process of capturing, collating, analyzing, and organizing any information that serves to identify, manage, locate, and interpret the holdings of archival institutions and explain the contexts and records systems from which those holdings were selected.

As a result, the standards included here are applicable to every process during which information about records, repositories, staff, or users is captured, processed, or retrieved. That includes not just the production of finding aids, but also accessions documentation, container labeling, compilation of statistics, and other activities throughout the life cycle of records. WGSAD's viewpoint is consistent with a broad "systems" approach to description that has characterized much archival standards work in the U.S. during the past two decades. The introduction to Chapter 1 explores the evolution of the definition of description more fully; Chapter 13 contrasts current U.S. thinking with that in related projects internationally.

Definition of "standard". It is also important to clarify the definition of "standard." During its deliberations, WGSAD developed a three-dimensional matrix that is reproduced on page . All of the entries contained in this handbook fall under one of the three "strengths" of standards identified in that matrix: technical standards, conventions, or guidelines.

Products of consensus. The most fundamental characteristic shared by these standards--whatever their strength--is that each is the product of consensus. Most of the standards included here are the result of some kind of group effort and received broad review within their organizations or by potential users before being adopted or published. For products of official standards organizations, like the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), there are explicit procedures including formal review periods and balloting by voting members of the organization. Guidelines are more often compiled and adopted by committees of a professional organization.

There are a few exceptions to the "group effort" products. Some of the cataloging manuals, for instance, are the result of an individual's analysis and explication of current practice, although those most widely used in archival description, specifically Archives, Personal Papers, and Manuscripts (APPM), received such broad review prior to publication that they can safely be viewed as reflecting consensus. A few others, like The Chicago Manual of Style or NARA's The Preparation of Inventories, are products of an individual organization but followed widely by other institutions, making them de facto standards of a sort.

Currency of use. Most of the standards given full entries are in current use by archivists in the U.S. For some this use is widespread, for others more limited but growing. Some are relatively familiar (USMARC formats, various cataloging rules and thesauri, ISBNs) while others fall into the more invisible realm where standards exist without the user being aware of their presence (Open Systems Interconnection, ASCII, and title page and spine formats for publications).

A few standards are included because they offer significant potential value in archival practice. Some are just emerging and are at the cutting edge of technological development (e.g., Common Command Language, Information Resources Dictionary System, Standard Generalized Markup Language). Others are long existing standards from other fields that should be examined more closely for archival applications (e.g., NISO's Writing Abstracts, ISO's Methods for examining documents, determining their subjects, and selecting indexing terms).

There was some wrestling with what to do about standards and guidelines that are obsolete or have gone several years without proper maintenance. The most notable examples are probably the Form Terms for Archives and Manuscript Control (used since 1985 by RLIN participants, among others, but now absorbed by AAT) and SAA's Inventories and Registers (which was left unattended for 15 years after its publication in 1976 and finally declared out of print by the Editorial Board).

One suggestion was simply to ignore them. Unfortunately, if someone came to the handbook looking for one of their favorite lists of terms and did not find it, they might think it had simply been overlooked and discount the entire enterprise as inherently flawed. Instead, it seemed better to include these kinds of documents, noting that they had once received widespread use but explaining that they were no longer being maintained and should not be considered reliable sources on which to base current practice.

U.S. national vs. international standards. In many cases, both national and international standards exist for the same area of practice. Usually the entry in this handbook places more emphasis on the U.S. standard because it is either an implementation of the international version (and therefore more detailed or explicit) or because the U.S. version contains rules or specifications unique to U.S. practices. In any of these circumstances, an attempt has been made to explain the relationships among similar standards across national borders.

Textual vs. nontextual materials. One of the hardest boundaries to draw was around the types of archival materials that would receive the greatest attention. For the sake of practicality, the primary focus has been on standards applicable to the description of textual, paper-based archival materials. Fortunately, most of the standards within this scope are also applicable to a wide range of nontextual materials.

Because the decision to concentrate on textual materials was difficult, the lines have not always been drawn firmly. Several full entries are provided for standards that apply primarily to nontextual materials because, simply stated, some of the most interesting current standardization efforts fall in this area. In particular, the description of archival graphic materials and moving images has benefitted from significant intellectual efforts toward providing a variety of access points for information retrieval. In addition, a large number of the short entries contained in the "Also of Interest" sections at the end of each chapter are for standards that apply to a variety of special materials.

Archival participation in the development of standards

It is not hard to see why archivists are overwhelmed by the number of standards that have real or potential impact on their work. In addition to the sheer volume, most of the standards were developed outside of the archival profession, so we are automatically "nonexperts" in whatever area they cover.3

Out of the 86 main entries and some 165 short citations included here, only 41 were developed primarily by archivists or with significant archival participation. That leaves at least 200 standards that archivists may want to use but over which they have no real control.

Just because they are nonarchival does not mean they are completely foreign, especially the 126 that were developed within the library community. The latest SAA survey indicated that about one-third of the archival profession in the U.S. has received a master's degree in library science4 and so can be expected to have been exposed to some of the intricacies of the most important standards for description, including the USMARC formats, cataloging rules, and those for authority control. Archivists also know too well that most library-based practices, standards included, must be adapted for archival applications. The two-thirds of the profession with no library training (a significant pool of 1600 individuals in SAA alone) will need extra help in understanding why these standards were developed and how they are to be used.

A few more of the standards included here, approximately 15, come from other closely allied professions, especially records management, micrographics, and museology. But an even larger number come from fields wholly outside these areas of relative familiarity. The handbook identifies some 65 relevant standards from fields such as data processing and publishing, all of which could be used effectively in archival information systems.

Much of the narrative in the chapter introductions and within the full entries focuses on both explaining how and why the standards evolved within their originating fields and the considerations for adapting those standards to archival uses.

An overview of standards: the WGSAD Matrix

It is beyond the scope of this handbook to provide a thorough discussion of the fundamental nature of standards, the processes through which standards are developed, and the factors that influence the choice of standards. The original report of the Working Group on Standards for Archival Description (WGSAD) examines many of these topics and should be consulted by the reader as an introduction to what standards are, who develops them, and why. Several other sources written by authors in allied fields, especially librarianship, provide additional information and analysis.5

In order to better explain the organization of this handbook and the vocabulary it uses to describe standards, we will reproduce that section of the original WGSAD report that described its matrix. The Working Group spent considerable time trying to categorize the types of standards that make up the "shared practices" for description among archivists. Beginning with a framework proposed by David Bearman in his background paper for the first meeting,6 the Working Group created a three-dimensional matrix whose cells are defined by (1) the strength of the standard; (2) the primary developer of the standard; and (3) the level of description to which the standard applies. The first two dimensions actually could be used to sort all standards used in any sector of archival practice; the third relates specifically to archival description.

Strength of the standard. Standards are generally acknowledged to take three forms, from very restrictive and specific to relatively permissive and general in application.7

Technical standards are the most rigid and exacting in this hierarchy of standards and, if followed correctly, will yield identical products. According to Walt Crawford, a technical standard "is an explicit definition that can be communicated, which is not subject to unilateral change without notice and which, if properly followed, will yield consistent results." 8 While archivists make use, perhaps unconsciously, of many technical standards in the course of their daily work (such as ANSI X3.4, which specifies the ASCII characters so widely used by computer systems), no technical standards have been specifically developed by archivists for description applications.

Conventions (also called "rules" or "professional standards") are more flexible and accommodate more variation in local practice. They result in similar but not necessarily identical products when applied correctly. The Society of American Archivists has formally endorsed two archival description conventions, the USMARC Format for Archival and Manuscripts Control (an internal data structure convention) and Hensen's Archives, Personal Papers, and Manuscripts (1989) (an internal data content convention). Other examples of widely used description conventions are the cataloging rules published in Betz, Graphic Materials (1982), and White-Hensen, Archival Moving Image Materials (1984).

Guidelines provide a broad set of practice and/or service criteria against which to measure products or programs. In 1976 SAA's Committee on Finding Aids published a set of description guidelines in Inventories and Registers: A Handbook of Techniques and Examples. Other examples include SAA's "Principles of Institutional Evaluation," first published in 1982 and now incorporated in its Archives Assessment and Planning Workbook (1989), which define all of the basic elements of a sound archival program, including arrangement and description activities. SAA has also produced guidelines for college and university archives (1979) and graduate archival education programs (1988) which contain description-related criteria.

Primary developer of the standard. The second dimension of the Working Group's matrix reflects the fact that many of the standards that are central to our work have been developed and implemented by individuals or institutions outside our field.

External standards (i.e., those developed outside the archival profession) are used or encountered by archivists for many reasons. In some cases, they are universally accepted and broadly used standards like the ASCII code referred to above. In other cases, they were developed by groups of closely allied professionals with interests and goals similar to our own, such as the specifications for microfiche headings produced by the Association for Information and Image Management. In still other circumstances, archivists are confronted with an external standard because it has come imbedded in a record accessioned by their repository, such as the several standard geographical place-name code sets used widely in statistical files.

Internal standards are those developed specifically or primarily by and for archivists. The line is not always clear between external and internal. For instance, several standards relating to graphic materials, including the Betz cataloging manual, could easily be placed under either the external or internal category depending on an individual practitioner's perspective. The motivation behind trying to draw the external/internal distinction lies largely with establishing how much influence archivists can have in future modifications or development of new standards in these areas. Archivists must be realistic about their potential role in the development or revision of standards. External standards can prove very difficult to influence, even with the most persistent efforts.

Level of description. The third dimension of the matrix is based on analyses of levels of archival description done by David Bearman and others.9 The dimension identifies four levels in operation; while standards activity at each level can operate independently of the others, standardization ideally should progress from information system downwards to data value.

Information system standards operate at the broadest level, attempting to specify all the component parts of a descriptive system in a single repository or a network of repositories. An information system standard will define the roles of and interrelationships among components within the overall system. Benefits: systems performing similar functions in different locations are more coherent and uniform in their approaches and are able to communicate and interchange data more readily.

Data structure standards define the elements of information contained in the components of an information system, including input formats (e.g., accession sheets, deeds of gift); output formats (e.g., registers, catalogs, inventories, shelf lists); and record types (e.g., holdings, donors, creators). Uniform data structure standards adopted across repositories must recognize legitimate needs of distinctive organizations for different methods and mechanisms of control. Benefits: the need for development of unique software is reduced and exchange of data is facilitated.

Data content standards provide the rules for entering information within each element defined in the data structure standards. They cover, but are not limited to, such issues as punctuation and capitalization, formats for expressing dates and quantities, and required vs. optional inclusion of specific items of information. Benefit: increased data integrity, in that specific usages carry greater meaning and are more easily correlated with descriptions intended to carry similar meaning.

Data value standards provide lists or tables of terms, names, alphanumeric codes, or other specific entities that are acceptable for entry in a particular data element. These standards include code lists and thesauri. Benefit: increased data integrity, as above.

Organization of the handbook

In the effort to emphasize use, the chapters in the handbook are organized largely according to function. The thinking was that an archivist might say, "I'm going to prepare an RLIN catalog entry now. What standards do I need to do that?" The standards governing information systems of all kinds, including the RLIN network, generally are contained in Chapter 2. Those related to the structure of the catalog entry, the USMARC formats, are grouped together in Chapter 3. The rules governing the contents of the fields within the USMARC records, promulgated in the form of "cataloging rules," are in Chapter 4. The thesauri and code lists that contain the standard terms or "values" that might be entered in specific USMARC fields are described in Chapters 6 and 7, respectively. Tables for transliterating words in a non-roman alphabet into roman characters are listed in Chapter 8.

If you go back to the matrix just discussed, you might recognize this progression as mirroring the "level of description" axis. Information System standards in Chapter 2, Data Structures in Chapter 3, Data Contents in Chapters 4 and 5 (although some of the documents in Chapter 5 provide standards for both structures and contents), and Data Values in Chapters 6, 7, and 8.

This functional approach makes obvious which areas of descriptive practice have received the most attention when it comes to standardizing practice, at least in the United States. Most archives and manuscript collections rely on inventories and registers as their primary descriptive tools. While many repositories have developed local guidelines for preparing these finding aids, they have not been the focus of coordinated, national standardization efforts, at least in the last decade or so. Instead, since the mid-1970s, archivists in the U.S. have concentrated on standards that will facilitate communication among repositories, especially those participating in the online bibliographic networks. This has resulted in a sophisticated communication format (USMARC AMC) and detailed rules for constructing catalog entries (in APPM and other interpretive manuals for cataloging special materials).

So while catalog entries are most often summaries of the information contained in larger, more detailed inventories, archivists in the U.S. have not yet developed a standard for the "structure" of an inventory like the one for the "structure" of an archival catalog record. Nor are there rules for an inventory's "contents" that are equivalent to the cataloging "content" rules expressed in APPM.

That is not to say that there are no standards at all that are applicable to the preparation of an inventory or other kinds of finding aids. Chapter 5 reviews a number of documents that provide guidance in the construction of non-catalog finding aids. It is important to note, however, that all of the documents gathered in this section are problematic in some way--either they were prepared many years ago and have not been properly maintained or reviewed (SAA's Inventories and Registers), or they reflect the practices of a single institution rather than true consensus (NARA's Preparation of Inventories), or they were prepared for use in another kind of information retrieval context and need adaptation for archival description (NISO's Writing Abstracts).

Chapter 13 reviews several international efforts that archivists in the U.S. should monitor closely and might be able to draw from when and if they seek to standardize formats and rules beyond cataloging. The International Council on Archives has drafted both a set of principles and general rules for archival description; the principles were approved at the 1992 ICA meeting in Montreal. Archivists in Great Britain have espoused their own descriptive standards in Manual of Archival Description which has been promoted actively by its publisher in the U.S. Of greatest potential use, perhaps, are the Canadian Rules for Archival Description which seek to standardize description in all formats, not just cataloging, but are designed to be compatible with the MARC formats and AACR 2 rules.

In addition to these archival standardization efforts, standards from other fields can be used in the production of finding aids in printed form. In particular, archivists will want to be aware of the standards listed in Chapter 9, standards used widely for publications of all kinds, including books, newsletters, annual reports, scholarly articles, promotional brochures, and documentary publications. These sources provide guidance on every aspect of editing, indexing, and production. Of course, a fully integrated descriptive program that uses both online cataloging and in-depth printed finding aids could easily choose one or more thesauri from Chapter 6 to provide indexing terms for both.

Contents of chapters and entries

Each chapter opens with a narrative discussion that is intended as a sort of "administrative history" of the standards grouped together within the chapter, providing historical background on the evolution of the standards, indications of how they are interrelated, and trends in their development and application. Following the introductory narrative is a list of "Further Reading" which provide additional analyses or information about the chapter's area of coverage.

In every chapter the full entries usually are arranged from the most general to the most specific in terms of the scope and application of the standards. In several cases, that means that the first entries are for major library-based standards. They are followed by standards developed specifically for archival or related applications that often are adaptations or modifications of the original library standards. Similarly, entries for general national or international standards might be followed by entries for more detailed standards developed for specific fields or applications that implement the broader ones.

At the conclusion of each chapter is an "Also of Interest" section that includes standards and related documents that are similar to those given full entries but have more limited utility in an archival context. The arrangement of these entries usually corresponds to the overall arrangement of the main entries in the chapter.

Whenever quoted text appears in the entries (without a specific footnote reference), it has been drawn directly from the standard itself or from descriptions or promotional materials prepared by the developer of the standard.

Every full entry contains the following sections:

Title and publication data:

The heading at the top of the page provides the full name of the standard plus its acronym, if applicable.

The publication data provides the date and edition number for the latest version of the standard, publication format, number of pages for printed works (to give a sense of relative size), ISBN and LC numbers when available, name of publisher or distributor, and price (which may change quickly). The few that are currently out of print and therefore unavailable for purchase are so noted. (Full addresses for publishers and distributors are given in Appendix A.)

Development, approval, and maintenance:

Provides information on the organization that developed the standard; names of individual authors, when applicable; actions by organizations resulting in formal approval or adoption; revision history; name of organization responsible for maintaining the standard and from which to request additional information.

Scope and structure:

Attempts to convey both the intent of the standard and its content. In many cases this section contains quotes from the developing organization's promotional literature or from the introductory matter in the standard itself that explains when and how the standard should be used.

Related standards:

Explains the interrelationships among standards, especially when one is derived from or mandates use of another standard. When the handbook also contains a full entry for the related standard, a cross reference to the other entry is provided.


Citations to articles or books that discuss the standard in greater detail. Special emphasis has been given to those that explain how and why the standards were developed and those that provide specific guidance on using or adapting the standard for archival applications.

Some entries also contain the following sections:

Archival applications:

This section is included only for those standards that were developed primarily for use in other fields and have been adopted for archival use. The intent is to provide further explanations about their limits or how to make the best use of them in archival systems.

Publication format and availability:

In several cases, the space in the heading for publication data was too limited to enumerate multiple formats or otherwise complex information about availability.

Obtaining copies of the standards

We have tried to provide information on how to obtain actual copies of each standard, a process that is not always easy.

It is possible to find the standards, if you just know where to look and are persistent. Each entry contains information on the format in which the standard is published and other information that will be helpful if one wants to order a copy (ISBN and LC numbers, price, name of publisher or distributor). Addresses and phone numbers of publishers and distributors are provided in Appendix A.

Because standards require so many hours from so many people to prepare, they are inherently expensive undertakings for their parent organization. Usually the only means available for even nominal cost recovery is to set what seem to be exorbitant prices on the published documents. It is not at all uncommon for a twelve-page document to sell for $30.00 or more. Considering these prices and the relatively limited audience, print runs are often small and purchases by libraries limited at best. Even when library collections exist, they are usually noncirculating so interlibrary loan is not a viable alternative. The individual who decides to invest in a personal copy may find that the publisher does not maintain a full backlist on hand; orders may go many months unfilled while titles are reprinted or while decisions are made about continued distribution of unrevised documents.

Archivists may meed to consult some standards frequently, but can do so without purchasing an actual physical copy of the standard. For example, the latest versions of the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) would cost $420 in book form; the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNA) is produced on CD-ROM for $460 or on microfiche for $635. But all of these are available online through the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), including search-only accounts), and OCLC also makes LCSH and LCNA available online to its members. Of course, there is an added advantage in that the online versions are constantly updated while the published versions become obsolete soon after they are produced.

Ideally, everyone should have access to a good library collection that will contain copies of all of the rest of the standards that may only have to be consulted occasionally. Such collections are not necessarily easy to find, however. You will have to tailor your strategies for locating actual standards according to the source of the standard and perhaps its strength.

Universities with engineering schools should have all of the technical standards approved by ANSI and may have the ISO standards as well. Universities with library schools, or simply good research libraries, are likely to have acquired all of the ALA and LC publications. Many of these may be housed in the technical services department rather than in the open collections, however, requiring some diplomacy and patience when requesting permission to consult the staff's working tools.

Those working in or visiting the Washington, D.C., area probably have the easiest search ahead of them. In 1988, the Science and Technology Division of the Library of Congress set out to acquire a thorough collection of national and international technical standards that is located in the Technical Reports Section.10 It collects all U.S. standards issued by ANSI and its accredited standards developers and keeps them historically, meaning that old versions are left in the collection when revised versions are received. It also collects foreign national standards (which currently include those from France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and the European Harmonized Standards, as well as the only complete and up-to-date sets from the former Soviet Union, China, and South Africa available anywhere in the U.S.) and standards issued by the major international organizations (including ISO, CCITT, and IEC). Copies of the standards (in either print or microfilm) may be consulted in the Science Reading Room on the fifth floor of the Adams Building. The Library staff will not make copies of the standards because of copyright restrictions, but photocopy machines are available to individual researchers under fair use provisions of the law. The Division's address is included in Appendix A.

Another source is the National Center for Standards and Certification Information (NCSCI) which is operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (formerly the National Bureau of Standards). Emphasizing current U.S. standards, NCSCI maintains files of U.S. and international standards as well as national standards from a number of other countries. The NCSCI staff can also provide information on standards and certification programs. The NCSCI address is included in Appendix A.

Outside Washington, D.C., there are many libraries that have developed special strength in the standards area. The Chicago Public Library, for instance, has a thorough collection of technical standards from ANSI, ISO, IEEE, EIA, TAPPI, and many others, either in paper or on microfilm. The Southwest Center for Codes and Standards at New Mexico State University provides fee-based services as a source for U.S. national and international standards as well as related military and federal government documents.

A resource guide to these types of standards collections was compiled by Patricia Ricci and Linda Perry in 1990 and may help users locate a convenient source in their area (if they can find a copy of the guide!).11

Several commercial sources, including online databases, provide information about or actual copies of standards. Like many online search services, they are quite expensive and designed primarily for users in business and industry who need technical specifications quickly. They include Information Handling Services, which produces indexes to standards on CD-ROM, and the Standards Information Service which produces an online database, "Standards and Specifications," available through the Dialog Information Retrieval Service. Addresses for both are included in Appendix A.12

Two clearinghouses are also useful in obtaining copies of obscure journal articles and other fugitive literature, including those commenting on description standards. The Archives Library Information Clearinghouse (ALIC), operating within the library of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), began collecting, cataloging, and disseminating regular informational mailings about archival literature from all sources. For anyone working with archives and records on any topic, ALIC is a valuable resource and literature about standards is becoming a particular strength. Currently ALIC's collection of actual standards is limited, however. Another source is the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) which has twelve separate components one of which specializes in abstracting and reproducing literature in the fields of library and information science, including archival topics. Addresses for ALIC and ERIC are included in Appendix A.

Coping with acronyms

One of the most frustrating hurdles to overcome in any standards-related effort is learning to decipher the incredible number of acronyms that come into play. Every group has its own shorthand, but standards developers seem especially dependent on abbreviations. Some acronyms sound so much alike that one is surprised to discover the organizations that they represent have no particular connection (ISO and NISO, for instance). Others become so familiar in their abbreviated form that users forget what the original meaning was, if they ever knew it. SGML is the acronym for Standard Generalized Markup Language in ISO 8879, the international standard that defines it, but in common usage one researcher found as many as twelve variations in the interpretations of what the letters stood for (standard becomes standardized, generalized becomes general, markup becomes manuscript, etc.).13 Most library catalogers have heard of MARBI, but only a handful can cite its full and proper name without hesitation: the American Library Association's Committee on the Representation in Machine-Readable Form of Bibliographic Information.

The handbook tries to help sort all this out in several ways. First, most acronyms are spelled out the first time they are used in each chapter. Since it is unlikely that anyone will read the entire handbook from beginning to end, it seemed more appropriate to treat each chapter as an independent entity that could be comprehensible on its own. Second, the index spells out all acronyms and provides references to sections in the text where the organization, standards document, or whatever else the acronym applies to is explained. Finally, Appendix A includes with an alphabetical list of acronyms for developers and publishers of standards so that they can be located more easily under their full names later in that appendix.


1 The WGSAD report and recommendations were published in the Fall 1989 issue of the American Archivist (52:4) along with a checklist of standards, a bibliography, a glossary, and three background papers prepared for the first meeting of the Working Group. The following issue of the American Archivist (53:1) contained an additional ten background papers prepared for WGSAD's second meeting. The preparation of this handbook on standards and their application to archival description fulfills one of WGSAD's seventeen recommendations.

2 The SAA Standards Board expects to issue its checklist of standards in 1993.

3 When archivists chose to become active participants in the library-based bibliographic networks, for instance, they implicitly agreed to accept a whole range of standard practices that make it possible for those networks to operate. We have not accepted them passively, in many cases, and the chapters that follow examine in some detail how archivists have adapted and expanded the existing MARC format and AACR 2 rules to accommodate some very specific and unique needs. In doing so, they also opened an opportunity for librarians to reexamine their own practices resulting in changes to the overall system that reflect archival philosophies.

4 Paul Conway, "GAP Track: Membership Survey Results," SAA Newsletter (Jan. 1992), 3, 9.

5 Two excellent introductions are contained in Walt Crawford, Technical Standards: An Introduction for Librarians, 2nd ed. (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1991) and Carl F. Cargill, Information Technology Standardization: Theory, Process, and Organization (Bedford, MA: Digital Press, 1989). A classic article on library standards containing analysis that is easily transferrable to archival contexts is Henriette D. Avram, Sally H. McCallum, and Mary S. Price, "Organizations Contributing to Development of Library Standards," Library Trends 31 (Fall 1982): 197-223. The September 1992 issue of the Journal of the American Society of Information Science (43:8) was devoted to information technology standards. A good overview of library-related standards development in the International Organization for Standardization is in Patricia R. Harris, "The Development of International Standards: Exploring the ISO/IFLA Relationship," IFLA Journal 17 (1991): 358-365.

Standards change continually and rapidly. The best source for current information about the role of standards in archives and museum operations is Archives and Museum Informatics, a newsletter edited by David Bearman. For the larger world of information-related standards, Information Standards Quarterly, the newsletter of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), provides current information not only on NISO standards but on related activities and standards in a wide range of other organizations, including the Library of Congress, ANSI X3, ANSI X12, and the International Organization for Standardization (including Technical Committee 46 and Joint Technical Committee 1).

6 Published as a supplement to the WGSAD report, David Bearman, "Description Standards: A Framework for Action," American Archivist 52 (Fall 1989): 514-519.

7 Avram, et al., "Organizations Contributing to Development of Library Standards," 197-198.

8 Crawford, Technical Standards for Librarians, 2nd ed., 8.

9 David Bearman, Strategy for the Development and Implementation of Archival Description Standards, unpublished paper given at the International Council on Archives Invitational Meeting of Experts on Descriptive Standards, 4-7 October 1988.

10 "Standards: Bringing Order Out of Chaos," LC Information Bulletin (December 2, 1991): 464-465.

11 Patricia L. Ricci and Linda Perry, Standards: A Resource Guide for Identification, Selection and Acquisition (St. Paul, MN: Stirtz, Bernards and Co., 1990).

12 One specific need these two clearinghouses fill is in distributing copies of Unesco RAMP reports. After the U.S. government withdrew its support of Unesco in December 1983, individual archivists requesting copies of RAMP reports directly from Unesco waited more than a year in some cases before receiving any response.

13 House Committee on Government Operations, Taking a Byte Out of History: The Archival Preservation of Federal Computer Records, 101st Cong., 2d sess., 1990, H. Rept. 101-978, n. 67.

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Standards for Archival Description: A Handbook
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