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Processing and Description: Instances (Containers)

Guide for UB Special Collections covering accessions, processing, description, and care of collection material.
Last Updated: Jun 5, 2023 11:19 AM


An instance tells the user where an item or group of items is located. Often, an instance consists of more than one part, i.e. box 6, folder 2.

Each instance indicates at least one top container, the highest container in the hierarchy; for the most part, this will be a carton or manuscript box, but it may also be a map case drawer. A top container is assigned a unique ID and can be barcoded. Folders are not currently treated this way.

Instances are assigned within the component as well as at the collection level: 

  • If a series, i.e. Correspondence, is described at the series level with no folder-level description, instances will be attached to the series. If there is folder-level description, i.e. Letters from students, instances are assigned at that level.
  • Once all instances have been assigned at the component level, add them all to the collection level as well; this will display the container information with the title on the public side, which tells the researcher and staff whether there is only one container, multiple containers, or if the collection is in a shared container. *See below for example of display.

Each top container must be assigned a container profile. This describes the type and size of the container. You can search by keyword, i.e. “legal” for a legal size manuscript box. Select the profile, choose container type from the drop down (in this case “box”), and assign the appropriate number. ArchivesSpace will not recognize if you accidentally create a duplicate “box 6,” for example, so be sure you are assigning the correct number.


Click “create and link to top container.” You can then add folders if necessary, and repeat until you’ve assigned all of the instances for the component you are describing.

This separation of parent/child for box and folder replaces the “box-folder” designation used in older EAD finding aids. For example, box-folder 2.5 would be separated out into box 2, folder 5. “Box-folder” is not in use, though it will appear in the dropdown menu; this is because older finding aids were imported into AS, and top containers were not updated.


Display of instance/top container information on public user interface:

Multiple discrete collections, or portions of collections, may share a top container.  Most often, this is the case for map drawers, single enclosure manuscript collections, and oversize materials. UA: Shared top containers are tracked in the Collections xls.  "Shared TC" tab is for open shared containers only (those with available additional space).  Once a container is full, mark it on the tab as "closed" so it is no longer available.  Create a new line with the next OS number; the container profile will be added when needed.


Collection Type





Find Existing TC XLS (UA Only) Identifier

Multiple discrete collections stored in a shared manuscript box with consecutive accession numbers (ex. MS 248, MS 249, MS 250).


Mainly for collections consisting of 1 enclosure.



Yes No. Used when processing several small collections of consecutive accessions.

Other (extent):

1 folder in TC MS box

1, 2, etc. representing order in box across collections


Example: Barcode 39072038465021

Multiple partial collections stored in a shared manuscript box (i.e. folders from multiple collections in one box)


Mainly for collections consisting of 1 enclosure.



N/A Yes - Check "Shared TCs" in xls

Other (extent):

2 folders in UAMS 42

UAMS 1, 2, 3...

Example: Barcode 39072039447481

Multiple discrete OR partial collections stored in a shared oversize box.

Mainly to store efficiently by size across collections.

Oversize box N/A Yes - Check "Shared TCs" in xls

Other (extent):

3 lps in UAOS 1

UAOS 1, 2, 3...

PCOS 1, 2, 3...

HMOS 1, 2, 3

Multiple discrete OR partial collections stored in a shared map drawer.

Mainly to store efficiently by size across collections.

Map Drawer N/A Yes - search or scan barcode for map case drawer

Inventory Tab:

MapCase: Y

Map Cases Tab:

List collection, etc.

Child = Folder

Child Indicator = 1, 2, 3...IN COLLECTION