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Processing and Description: Legacy Description

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


  1. Create a resource record in ArchivesSpace (only the collection # and dates are necessary  to export in step 3)
  2. Use the "AS Import Container List" xls to create container list
  3. Export resource record as EAD
  4. Copy and paste "Container_List" from the xls into <dsc></dsc> in the EAD file
  5. Import EAD file into AS
  6. Clean up controlled values.

***NOTE: Avoid importing data with subjects, genres, and/or agents.  This simplifies post export AS data cleanup.


Instructions adapted from the Chaos --> Order blogpost by Maureen Callahan

Begin with an Excel spreadsheet with columns for box numbers, folder numbers, folder titles, and dates, at minimum. Include other columns as needed. For example, scope and content, physical description, conditions governing access, etc.

Screen Shot of Excel workbook

Update the column headings to map to EAD fields (i.e. unittitle, unitdate, etc.)

Import the spreadsheet into Oxygen or a different XML editor.

Screen shot of Oxygen's File Import menu

Importing Excel into Oxygen

Set the import preferences so that the column headers are used as tag names.

Screen shot of proper import settings

Now that the data is in xml, use an XSLT to turn it into an EAD container list. The xslt file is located here: Y:\ArchivSh\Best Practices. The xslt file asks whether elements are present, then gives commands to pull in that element if it is. Some modifications may be necessary, such as adding certain notes (see screenshot).

Screen shot of XSL code

Next, set up the transformation in Oxygen (the wrench icon). Give the transformation a name, and tell it to apply this file to whatever xml you are working on. Use the Saxon-PE engine, and in the output tab tell it to open the transformed file in the editor.

Screen shot of Oxygen transform New Scenario dialog

Copy and paste the edited xml container list into the EAD xml file you are importing into ArchivesSpace. You may need to do some mass find-and-replace to clean up the xml file. This is also a good time to spellcheck. The following are common clean-up issues that you may wish to address prior to import.

  • Update <eadid>
  • Update <unitid>
  • Remove “Series” and “Subseries” from <dcs> <unitid></unitid></dsc>
  • Add authority file numbers for subjects and agents
    • <corpname authfilenumber="n93098086" rules="aacr2" source="lcnaf">International Women Playwrights Conference</corpname>


**Imported data, especially that from controlled value lists, MUST match that in ArchivesSpace**

Top Containers

  • Double check top containers

Archival objects (components) with multiple instances

  • When importing archival objects (components) with multiple instances, only the first instance and partial second instance will import
  • Double check instance child "type"

Agents and Subjects

  • Check for duplicate records and merge if applicable


  • Check for duplicate records in date certainty