CRS Manual - Series number and control symbol

Series number


A series number is a unique alpha-numeric identifier which is given to each registered series.


The series number is an essential identifier for an item, and when combined with a control symbol gives an item its intellectual context. For intellectual control purposes each item must be always referenced to the series to which it belongs. 

Relative importance

This is a mandatory field for all items (category 1). The series must already be registered before an item can be registered.

Sources of information

Sources include series registration, recordkeeping metadata, transfer documentation, and the records themselves.

Standards for content

Give a series number without the CRS prefix. The letter prefix is in upper case. Do not enter transfer control numbers for CRS System series A7985, not A7985/1
Unserialised accessions and accession series number must be given in full AA1965/5, not AA1965
CP78/1, not CP78
Give a series number without spaces between characters A7985, not A 7985
CP78/1, not CP 78/1


The series to which an item belongs does not normally change. If an item is found to be in the wrong series, then the item is attributed to a new series and the former series captured in the Alternative Series Number attribute. The system of arrangement of the series may be the catalyst for identifying that an item is in the wrong series. It could well be that the system of arrangement of the series is wrong. However, whether the  item is in the wrong series or the system of arrangement of the series is wrong, appropriate analyses is required to ensure the control symbol of the item matches that of the series.

Application notes

An item cannot be fully described until it has been placed into a series. The series number is also validated to ensure that the series exists and has not been cancelled.

Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.1.1

Control symbol


A control symbol is given to a logical or physical unit of description, (ie an item), when it is registered into a recordkeeping system. The creating authority determines the make-up of the control symbol in accordance with the series into which the unit of description was registered. A control symbol can be a single number, a combination of numbers and letters, names, bundle numbers or box numbers. In the absence of an original control symbol, the Archives may impose a control symbol, where necessary, to establish a system of arrangement and control. 


The purpose of a control symbol is to, as much as possible, complete the unique identification of an item. In conjunction with a series number, the control symbol is generally a unique identifier and also places the item within the recordkeeping system in which it was created.

The control symbol and series number combined, form the core intellectual control information of an item. In conjunction with the unique barcode number, it is used for the transfer, retrieval and production of finding aids. 

Relative importance

This is a mandatory field (category 1).

Sources of information

Sources include series registration, especially the system of arrangement, recordkeeping metadata, transfer documentation,  the records themselves, and the control records.

Standards for content

Ideally, the control symbol supplied by the agency or on the item itself should be clearly separate from other data, so that the item can be readily identified using the original recordkeeping systems.  Examples of control symbols include:

There are several instances where an item within the same series has duplicate control symbols. The unique item barcode, plus extra  attributes will reduce the chance of confusion. Instances include:                                                    

Item type    Unique feature
Two items with the same title Expanded title
Copy item  Copy item flag, unique barcode
Sub-item  Sub-item flag, unique barcode
Parent item Unique barcode
Original number or control symbol

As far as possible, use the original control symbol. Variations should only be made in exceptional circumstances. Though the sense of the original control symbol must be preserved for control and description, its format may need to be modified to meet the requirements of database retrieval and sorting mechanisms. After that process, it is  expected that control symbols will be consistent, across the series.

Names as control symbols

Where items in a series are controlled by the name of a person or a place, or an identifiable non-numeric code, the item control symbol should be taken to be that non-numeric code or name. Note that in some cases the item title will be the same as, or at least include, the item control symbol. For example, for series of personnel files that are arranged alphabetically, the item number could be the persons family name. Often a last name, followed by initial (s) is sufficient to identify an item, for example:

    Control symbol: CITIZEN J

    Control symbol: O'MALLEY L


It is not essential to add extra information to ensure an item has a unique control symbol. In the case of very large series where there are likely to be multiple occurrences of the same name, other data may be used in association with the name to impose unique identification. For example, where the persons name and date of birth are seen as the unique identifiers:

    Control symbol: CITIZEN J 1 Jan 1921

Unique identifiers other than date of birth (such as military service number) might be used as the item control symbol instead. Such variations to the control symbol must still be in accordance with the system of arrangement of the series. 

Other cases

Where more than one item within a series has been controlled and labelled by the same control symbol, covering the same subject matter, and with one item clearly following from one to the next, arrange the items in chronological order and impose part numbers on the items themselves to uniquely identify each item.  For example, for two items originally controlled as 595/3/568, show separately as 595/3/568 PART 1 and 595/3/568 PART 2. The primary number must still be consistent with the system of arrangement for the series. These additional symbols should only be imposed if it reflects the likely intention of the recordkeeping system of which the item is a part.

No number or ineffective item number

If there is no item number or recognisable system of control symbols, or if there is an existing control system that is demonstrably ineffective for archival control purposes (for example, retrieval is difficult because the original system of item identification across the series was poor), impose a simple control system in consultation with local staff responsible for records control and description. A single number system is generally recommended. In such exceptional circumstances, it is essential that the system of arrangement of the series will allow the imposition of a single number and support addition of the inadequate control symbol in the Alternate Control Symbol attribute. In such instances make sure the series registration has the value of 'other' in the attribute as this value removes validation against control symbols and allows both sets.. See: System of Arrangement/Control .

Record an explanation of the reasons for the imposition of the new system of arrangement in the System of Arrangement subheading in the Series Descriptive note.

Treatment of records that were accumulated and intended to be used together

Some records are intended to be used as an accumulation, such as  series of index cards, sets of microfiche of Australian citizens, and sets of registration cards.

Where the distinct physical units within a series were intended to be used together, it may be appropriate to consider them as one unit for intellectual control and allocate a control number accordingly. In some cases, a range of the items within the control unit may be given, rather than the details for each particular item. For example:

Control symbol: [Aasgard - Greebly]
Item title: [Aasgard - Greebly]

Control symbol: [Green - Zoe]
Item title : [Green - Zoe]

It is not necessary to impose box numbers as control symbols when the range of items within the box and the system of arrangement for the series is not box but clearly alphabetical or chronological. Only if the contents are undescribable or unordered would a box number be appropriate. For example:

Control symbol: Box 1
Item title: [Unordered photographs of various buildings]

Control symbol: Box 2
Item title: [Unsorted personal correspondence] 

In such instances it would be expected that appropriate arrangement and description would be programmed for attention. Until such attention, the system of arrangement of the series would be described as 'box number'.

Traditionally series consisting of cards or photographs were only described at box level. Sometimes it is actually more desirable to describe each card or photograph within the box. This is especially relevant where the cards contain the names of people or photographs depict major events or places or importance. In these circumstances, it is still important that the control symbols allocated to the item are consistent with the arrangement of the series.

Where items are brought together for a specific purpose, for example, to image a set of cards from several series, an aggregate series is created and then aggregate items are registered in that series. Refer to Aggregate Series and Aggregate Item attributes for an explanation.

Alteration of details on items themselves

The item number or control symbol on the item itself should not be altered or obscured in any way to conform with these descriptive standards except where authorised under s. 24 and s. 26 of the Archives Act. A control symbol imposed by the Archives may be written on a protective folder/cover. When writing the control symbol on the item itself, use pencil and put the information in square brackets in the top right-hand corner of the item, if possible.

Syntax rules

The following rules and guidelines should be observed for item numbers and control symbols. The system of arrangement at series level will facilitate standardisation for control symbols. There may be cases where standardisation of control symbols for a series is not possible. The guidelines below should be followed as much as possible in such instances.

Ampersand and hyphens
Padding zeros
Part numbers
Roman numerals
Separators and component delimiters 

These are three valid separators for item control symbols.

Slash ( / ) 29/2/14
Hyphen ( - )  293-2-14
Full stop ( . ) 293.2.14

Combination of separators or delimiters are also possible.

Slash and hyphen 1972/3 - 1972/5
Hyphen and full stop 23.2 - 73.2
Full stop and slash 75/3.1


Superfluous terms
Year references

Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.1.1

Barcode number


A barcode number is a unique number that is attached to an item and then entered against the item description.


The purpose of the barcode number is to enhance physical control of items by supplementing control already effected by the series number and control symbol. The barcode number is also used for a wide variety of business processes such as access examination, transfer, lending and location. barcode numbers assist in managing links between:

Type of item

barcode type

Associated barcode


Item barcode

Sub-item barcodes

Copy item barcode


Sub-item barcode

Parent barcode number

Copy item barcode

Copy item

Copy item barcode

Source item barcode (could be an item or sub-item)

Aggregate item

Aggregate item barcode

One or more constituent item barcodes

Constituent item

Constituent item barcode

One or more aggregate item barcode numbers from different aggregate series

Relative importance

This is a mandatory field (category 1). The description of a new item cannot be completed until the barcode has been entered, manually or through scanning mechanisms.

Sources of information

Barcode numbers are generally allocated from sheets of pre-printed labels with random numbers that have no connection to items prior to scanning or keying them in against an item.

Standards of content

The barcode number must be unique. barcode numbers are placed on items or protective covers and then entered into RecordSearch along with the intellectual control attributes. barcode numbers are not allocated by the system as series and provenance numbers are. Whilst a barcode number performs similar functions to database accession numbers, the critical difference is the use of the barcode number to match the item and its descriptive information.


The barcode number will not change. In the event of loss or deterioration of the barcode label, a new label with the same number must be created and placed on the item. A barcode number will not be reused if the item attached to it is destroyed or withdrawn permanently.

Application notes

Barcode numbers are critical to the management of items, but retrieval is not dictated by prerequisite knowledge of the barcode. barcode numbers are especially important to retain control over the following processes and to assist identification of the appropriate item:

Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.1.1