Repeating information at lower levels description

Today I discovered a description pet peeve while testing how finding aid requesting will work with our Aeon implementation.

Highlighting practice of reusing a series title in a folder title.

Highlighting practice of reusing a series title in a folder title.

Almost every single folder in this collections starts by repeating the series name followed but more specific information for that particular folder. I know I’ve seen this before in our finding aids (and previous institutions), but it’s pretty widespread in this example. You can view the full Anne St. Clair Wright papers finding aid.

Really, we don’t need to do this as it doesn’t add more value, makes the display more cluttered, and isn’t a good use of our time spent repeating information.

DACS covers this:

Principle 7.3: Information provided at each level of description must be appropriate to that level.

When a multilevel description is created, the information provided at each level of description must be relevant to the material being described at that level. This means that it is inappropriate to provide detailed information about the contents of files in a description of a higher level. Similarly, archivists should provide administrative or biographical information appropriate to the materials being described at a given level (e.g., a series). This principle also implies that it is undesirable to repeat information recorded at higher levels of description. Information that is common to the component parts should be provided at the highest appropriate level.

This principle is discussed in numerous articles on archival description (including on page 246 of Greene and Meissner’s 2005 MPLP article) and can be seen in many institution’s processing manuals.

Going back to our processing manual, there really aren’t any explanations on the hierarchical relationships between levels of description or instructions stating that lower levels of description inherit description from above . There is some guidance on creating folder titles, but most of it has to do with formatting. There’s almost no explanation of how to develop series titles.

Adding this to the list of updates to make!




2 thoughts on “Repeating information at lower levels description

  1. This was really common back when lots of archivists were (well, many still are) creating finding aids using spreadsheet software that didn’t make it easy (or made it impossible?) to use levels.

  2. Yes, I think this was a common thing for sure, particularly when converting old Word documents into EAD I suspect. I’ve been able to use levels with spreadsheets, but we were very deliberate and utilized a mail merge to translate those levels into EAD.

    The larger problem, with at least the example above, is more quality control and training so people understand when information should/shouldn’t be repeated. The finding aid was done in 2009 and updated in 2012, both times when we’ve had our local Beast database in place that handles series and nesting (doesn’t handle it great, but it does handle it.)

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