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Processing and Description: Accession Records

Guide for UB Special Collections covering accessions, processing, description, and care of collection material.
Last Updated: Sep 19, 2023 1:35 PM


Title for the unit being described (i.e. collection, series, item) in two segments: Name unit + type of material

Supply a name unit for the collection (creator, collector, or subject). The proper form of this name is derived from the preferred name used in the collection. Second part represents the types of materials being described. See Basic Information: Title in Resource Records for more details.

For additions or accruals, title the unit accordingly, i.e. "Additions to the Department of Chemistry records."

Note: The name unit of the title is always capitalized, i.e. Ted Berrigan notebooks, Mathematics Department records

If the collection contains one or two types of items (e.g. correspondence and promotional materials), list those in the title. 

Consult the Art and Architecture Thesaurus for genre terms. 

If the collection contains three or more types of materials, use the term papers, records, or collection:

  • 'papers' describes collections from individuals;
  • 'records' describes collections from corporate bodies or organizations;
  • 'collections' describes collections that were “intentionally assembled” (sometimes called “artificial collections”). 

When the subject of the collection is a person, and if no name has been recorded because the repository is the collector, express the title of the collection in a way that indicates that the subject is not the collector. If one or two items dominate a collection, but are not the only types of materials present, try to reflect that in the title

Note: The material type unit of the title is always written in lowercase.


The resource identifier is the accession number.  If no accession number can be identified, use the collection number and explain under “Provenance.”

University Archives numbers are constructed in two parts: year and number of accession (three digits), i.e. 2015-007

Poetry Collection numbers are constructed in 3 parts: year, repository abbreviation, and number of accession (use thre digits), i.e. 2015-PCMS-007

For born digital materials, use "BD" suffix, i.e. 2015-007-BD or 2015-PCMS-007-BD

Each part of the identifier is entered in its own box without dashes or slashes.

Determining New Accession Number

Browse accessions in ArchivesSpace.

Limit search to the year in which the accession is being added.

Sort accessions by identifier, descending.

This should display the most recent assigned number.

Once you've determined what the number should be, search for it to double check that it hasn't been used.

If your search returns no accessions with that number, you may assign it.

Accession Date

The date the collection was acquired or transferred to the repository. Use yyyy-mm-dd. If no accession date can be identified, use the date you are constructing the record and explain under “Provenance.”


Do not publish accession records.

Content Description

Label: Scope and Contents

Include a brief description of the materials.

Condition Description

List an conservation issues, dimensions, A/V materials, etc.


Identify major separations or re-assignments from collection upon accession.

Example: “Three books removed from collection and added to Rare Books: [list titles]."


Arrangement, box list, survey, or link to an external inventory document.  This can be a lengthy inventory or a brief statement as the arrangement of materials.


Box list at Y:\ArchDev\FA MS\MS 1-10\MS01.doc

Collection is roughly arranged in 3 series: correspondence, research, and photos.

  • Box 1 Correspondence, 1900-1950
  • Box 2 Photographs, 1910-1950
  • Box 3 etc.


Note how the collection was accessioned and from whom. If accession record has an imposed identifier and date (because accession is unknown), state so here.


The Thomas D. Perry papers, 1957-1982, were given to the University Archives by his wife, Patricia Perry, in two accessions: #82-081 was received October 5, 1982, and accession #85-037 was received May 3, 1985.

Date of accession for the Thomas D. Perry papers is unknown.

General Note

Record information here that does not have an allocated field, in particular:

  • Collection Impact Statement
  • Purchase amount
  • Location

Acquisition Type

Select the appropriate type from the pull-down list.

Resource Type

Select the appropriate type from the pull-down list.

Access Restrictions

Check this box if there any restricted or closed materials in the collection.  If this box is checked, describe the nature of the restriction in Access Restriction Note.

If restricted material is known, list location (box #), clearly mark material as such, and include restriction on any existing inventory.  Use UA Restricted Records Policy and applicable timetables to explain the nature of the restriction.  Include restrictions and restriction start/end dates in Rights Statements.

Collection has been assessed by archivist for restricted material.

No restricted material assessment has been made.

Donor has [has not] declared restricted material is [is not] present.

Box 3 Tenure records, 1970-1972 (5 folders), are closed until 75 years after the date of creation according to University access policies.

Restricted for 20 years from the date of accession into the University Archives, according to University access policies.  Files may be accessed prior to that time only if the office of origin consents to disclosure.

Note: This field does not self-populate in a resource record that is spawned from an accession record. This information must be entered manually in a Terms of Access and Use note.

Dates and Extents of Materials

See Dates and Extents on Resource Records page.

Agents and Subjects

See Agents and Subjects page.

Related Resources

Related Accessions

External Documents

Appraisals, correspondence pertaining to accession, deeds, online permissions, etc.

Rights Statements

Restricted material:

  • Rights type = Other
  • Other Rights Basis = Policy (if institutional policy applies) or Donor (if donor applied restriction in deed of gift) Include restriction start and end dates.

Intellectual property:

Use for statement of copyright, retention by donor or transferred to repository.


Used only if creating barcoded top containers to be moved off-site before processing.

Collection Management

At minimum, set Priority, Rights Determined, Processing Plan, Processors, and Processing Status.