Clean up: Instructions for title in accession records

I’ll be tackling some of the core information in our ArchivesSpace accession records in a series of posts over the next few weeks. (I originally had multiple fields in a post, but it was getting way too long so I’m going to split things up a bit.)

Going in a somewhat logical order, we’ll start with the title field for accession records.


Every accession requires an accession title. This isn’t required by ArchivesSpace, but will be a local requirement (and is a DACS required field.) We’ve mostly used Excel and OpenRefine, including the clustering feature and some simple find and replace operations to change our data.

Make titles for the same materials consistent/match to facilitate management and searching.

  • ex: Records of the Office of the President, Office of the President, President’s Office records, and Office of the President records all clearly have the same originating department with the same name, but were formatted/entered differently.

Make titles DACS compliant when possible. See DACS 2.3 Title

  • Make first segment the person, family, or corporate body, put in direct order
  • Make second segment the archival unit
  • Replace “Archives” with “records”, “papers”, “collection”, or other appropriate term

If there is a memorabilia item# in the accession number, use “memorabilia” in the title statement.

  • ex: “Harry Clifton Byrd papers” as the current title for a memorabilia accession. Rename “Harry Clifton Byrd memorabilia”.

For accessions titled only “memorabilia” add additional information from the abstract field when available.

  • ex: Abstract starts with “Democratic Party (Montgomery County).” Rename accession title to “Democratic Party (Montgomery County). memorabilia”.
  • ex: Abstract starts with “First Look Fair memorabilia” Rename accession title to “First Look Fair memorabilia”



2 thoughts on “Clean up: Instructions for title in accession records

  1. I’ve been doing a lot of work with legacy accession records, and something I’ve noticed is that there was a long, terrible tradition of putting the disposition instead of the accession title — for instance, it would say “Communist Party USA Records” (the collection it ultimately ended up in) instead of “Daily Worker Editorial Board Meeting Minutes.” This makes it really, really hard to figure out which parts of collections came at which time. Are you encountering this problem?

  2. Yes, I think this is pretty common in our records too. Some accession titles are more specific, but usually this happens when they are describing a single item as opposed to a group of materials. At this point we’re not going back to rename accession titles, but I think we need more detailed instructions in our accessions documentation.

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