This chapter provides guidance for the creators of finding aids for manuscript collections. A finding aid provides information about the contents and context of a collection. Researchers use finding aids to identify materials of probable interest and to understand the broader context of those materials. Finding aids almost always move from the general to the specific and generally describe materials in the aggregate, whether it be at the collection, series, subseries, or file level.
With only a few exceptions, the standards we use when creating finding aids and catalog records conform to Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS). This chapter, therefore, guides the processor through the elements of DACS and provides local interpretation and guidance for each descriptive element. These elements conform directly to fields used in the Archivists’ Toolkit and our mixed-materials cataloging manual.
General tips for description
Describe from the general to the specific
Don’t repeat information
Provide only information relevant to the level of description at hand
This chapter serves to guide description at the Beinecke Library. While the library strives to maintain a consistent structure across finding aids, regardless of the depth of description, this chapter should serve as instruction and guidance that allows for flexibility and exceptions.
For rules on writing style and formatting, see Style.
There are two ways of accessing information in this chapter: you can browse information according to descriptive level or you can browse information by specific element.
Information about elements is organized into the following structure:
- Element Title
- Cross walk to the element in DACS, EAD, and MARC standards
- Definition of the element
- Usage of the element for levels of description:
- Examples are provided at levels of description when relevant.