CRS Manual - Item title and keyword headings

Item title


The item title is a label that should convey, accurately and succinctly, the subject or nature of the business documented in the item.


The purpose of an item title is to briefly describe the contents of a particular item. In most instances this information is captured from the recordkeeping systems of the agency which initially created the item. The title does not attempt to be a unique description. Further explanatory information is contained in other attributes. The archivist only adds to or amends the title when there is insufficient information or where there is no relationship between the title and the information contained therein. Any additions made by an archivist need to be clearly identified.

Relative importance

This is a mandatory field for all items (category 1).

Standards for content

As far as possible the Archives adheres to the following rule:

When the item bears a formal title, transcribe the wording, order and spelling, but not necessarily its punctuation and capitalisation. If no formal item title appears within or on the item, compose a brief title which should include, where appropriate, the form of the material comprising the item, and a phrase reflecting function, activity, subject, location or theme.

Ideally, the title supplied by the agency or on the item itself should be clearly separate from other information, so that the item can be readily identified using the original recordkeeping system.

Sequence of information

The original item title, if there is one, should be given first, followed by any clarifications which should be enclosed within one set of square brackets. Expansion of confirmed abbreviations, reduction or rationalisation of punctuation, and standardisation of case and numbers in the original title can be done without the use of square brackets. For example:

Original title [enhanced title with essential clarifications]
Original title

Use the original title, if there is one. Although the sense of the original item title must be preserved, the title may need to be modified slightly to improve retrieval. The only changes or additions to the original item title allowed are explained in the 'Syntax rules' below.

Long titles

Very long titles can be abbreviated if required, but make sure you include all the key terms, and add [abbreviated] at the end of the abbreviated title. 

No contents

If an item has no contents, mention this after the title. For files, give file cover only, and include the date you found the item to be empty, or was known to be empty, in the format DD MMM YYYY, eg [file cover only as at 12 Feb 1978].

If the original item title is singularly inadequate in conveying the matters covered in the item, enhance the title by adding a phrase in square brackets at the end of the original title, which will clarify the content of the item. For example, an item titled simply ‘Legislation’ conveys very little. If the item deals principally with the establishment of a quarantine research station on the Cocos Islands, the original title can be enhanced as follows:

Legislation [establishment of quarantine research station on Cocos Islands]

This gives a researcher much more information about the item than just ‘Legislation’. In addition, the item can now be retrieved directly using the keywords ‘quarantine’, ‘research’, ‘research station’ and ‘Cocos Islands’, as well as ‘Legislation’.

Associated control records can be consulted to obtain information about how an item was categorised by the creating agency. For example, for a file controlled as part of a subject-based multiple number system, each component of its file number denotes a particular subject and these components might not appear as part of the title on the item itself. For the above example, the file title may be only ‘Legislation’, but the multiple number components of its control number might have meant: ‘Cocos Islands - quarantine station - establishment – legislation’.

Do not enhance the item title by including words or dates that duplicate information provided in the series title, agency recording title, series date range or agency date range that relate to the item. Use the Item Descriptive Note to record necessary enhancements or enter information into a keyword heading attribute or Keyword Headings if a classification system or thesaurus is applicable.

No original title

If an item has no title you should impose one.

Examine the content of the item and create a suitable title which should include, where appropriate, the form of the material comprising the item, and a phrase reflecting function, activity, subject, location or theme. Show the imposed title wholly enclosed in square brackets. Do not give ‘No title’, unless the item has no title and you are unable to determine what the contents are. In these circumstances a brief description of the item is probably best, for example [Untitled folder containing unidentified data tables]. Generally, do not include a description of the contents in the title. Enter such details in the Item Descriptive Note if considered essential.

When composing a title in such circumstances, try to avoid including words or dates that duplicate information provided in the series title, agency recording title, series date range or agency date range that relate to the item.

Public access constraints

On rare occasions you may consider that part of an item title should be exempt from public access; for example, titles which include names of intelligence agencies, details of intelligence relationships, cooperation between law enforcement and security agencies, and embarrassing or distressing personal information. After consultation with an officer holding an appropriate access delegation, you may replace the sensitive word or words with annotation in square brackets to the effect that the word, name or sensitive portion of the title has been excluded - or you can even replace the sensitive word or words with a paraphrased version of the sensitive information, whichever seems appropriate, as in the following examples:

‘Bruce Edgar Jenkins – adoptee’, could become ‘Bruce Edgar Jenkins - [portion of title exempt]’
‘Peter E Albrecht - suspected tax evasion’, could become ‘Peter E Albrecht - [portion of title exempt]’
Relations with [foreign government intelligence agency - modified title]
[foreign government intelligence agency - imposed title, original item title exempt]

Ensure that information in the series description, when used in conjunction with a modified item title, does not contravene public access restrictions under the Archives Act.

Instances where portions of an item title need to be excluded from the publicly available database on sensitivity grounds should be very rare.


Item titles should accurately reflect the actual content, meaning or significance of the titles they represent. It is possible for a title to misrepresent the title it refers to. The possibility of bias arising from inappropriate description must always exist. Bias may be introduced because the title offered is too brief, or it is too full; inappropriate information is selected for inclusion; or because of a lack of uniformity in the title of different parts of our holdings within a series, or across related series.

Alteration of detail on items themselves

Under no circumstances should the title recorded on the item itself be altered or obscured in any way to conform with these descriptive standards except where authorised under appropriate sections of the Archives Act. An Archives imposed title may be written on a protective folder/cover.

Application notes

Syntax rules

The following rules and guidelines should be observed for item titles.

Abbreviations and acronyms (see also Punctuation)

Commonly used acronyms such as CSIRO need not be expanded. If there is any doubt about whether an acronym is widely known, check the latest edition of the Macquarie Dictionary - if the acronym in question is not listed, it should be expanded. Note that Qantas may now be considered a business name, not an acronym, and therefore does not require expansion.


Use lower case for general text. Use initial capital letters only for all proper names and locations as well as at the beginning of an item title. Use upper case only for all acronyms and names of ships and naval bases. (The latter is a recent Archives convention of limited application.) For example:

Where family names begin with a Mc or Mac prefix, give the c or ac portion in lower case and transcribe the remainder of the name as it appears on or within the item. For example, use MacDonald not MACDonald; McKay not MCKay; Mackenzie not MACkenzie.

Currency symbols

Use the word description of an external currency instead of its shorthand symbol, and include a term (the country of origin if needed) describing the currency, eg give 12000 pounds Sterling,  not £12,000; give 3000000 yen not ¥3,000,000.


Where there are existing dates in titles, show them as they occur unless the dates are an important access point for the items in the series. Dates in titles can be expressed in three ways:

Year only: 1956
Month and year: November 1956
Day, month and year: 23 November 1956

If you impose dates in an item title, the date format should be consistent for the series, but with month expressed in full.


Year only: 1956
Month and year: November 1956
Day, month and year: 23 November 1956

Financial years or similar overlapping years should be given in full, separated by a slash (/) or dash (-), for example, enter 1965/1966 or 1965-1966 not 1965/66 and not 65/66


Show numbers without commas for retrievability, for example 1000 not 1,000. Separators, such as decimal points, may need to be retained in some cases to preserve meaning.

Ranges of numbers should be expressed in full, for example reports 121-191 not reports 121-91.

Personal names

Personal names in item titles should be given in their usual order, except for some series comprising personal case files (see 'Personal case items' below).

Initials in personal names can be expanded where known. There is no need for full name and initials, for example give ‘Katherine Mary Brown’ instead of ‘K M Brown’.

If initials are not expanded, give spaces between the initials but do not show full stops after the initials, for example F N North.

Personal case items

Where a series is one in which the item titles are proper names, and these proper names are not also the item control symbols, enter the family name first, followed by a comma, then first names or initials, then honorifics (if any), for example:

This approach facilitates the sorting of item titles into alphabetical order for reports, something which may not be achieved by sorting on the item control symbol.

Punctuation (See also 'Abbreviations and acronyms')

Keep punctuation to a minimum, preserving the sense of the original item title. Phrasing that imparts sense to a file title is often implied by hierarchical representation of the title on the file cover, with no explicit punctuation. These implicit punctuation breaks should be represented in the title by hyphens, to preserve the sense of the title. However, it requires some experience and judgement to determine when the representation of the title over two or three lines as it appears on an item represents deliberate phrasing and when it does not. For example, without appropriate separators, a title such as ‘King and Queen - their Majesties the - presentations etc’ becomes obscure.

Use hyphens rather than full stops (or any other character) as phrase separators when representing the hierarchical arrangement of the original item title. Use spaces between the text and the hyphens as shown in the example above.

Do not use a full stop at the end of an item title.

Show acronyms without full stops or spaces between or after the letters. For example, give ‘CSIRO’ not C.S.I.R.O., and not C S I R O.

For hyphenated words, do not show spaces between the words and the hyphen. For example, give ‘Attorney-General’ not Attorney - General.

For words with an apostrophe, do not show spaces between the word and its apostrophe. For example, give ‘O'Connor’ not O ' Connor.


Correct words that have been clearly misspelt. For example, if the original title reads ‘sodier’, enter soldier, not sodier [soldier], and not so[l]dier. Note that there is no need to use square brackets for this purpose. Do not update old spellings which may no longer be in current use. For example, do not replace gaol with jail, programme with program, naturalization with naturalisation. If the correct spelling is not clear, provide the original spelling followed by appropriate spelling enclosed in square brackets.

Where spelling of foreign persons or place names in an item title does not conform to current transliteration practice, enter the present form in square brackets after the name, if appropriate, for example:

Roumania [Romania], Peking [Beijing], Mao Tse Tung [Mao Zedong].

In cases where only part of an item has been top-numbered, the top-numbering reference should be placed in square brackets after the title. Where there is more than one alternative item control symbol, enter them in the Alternative Control Symbol attribute.

Special cases

Do not repeat unnecessarily information that is given elsewhere in the descriptive regime. For example, if a series consists wholly of photographs, it is redundant to indicate in an imposed item title or description that each item is a photograph.


As mentioned in the section on item control symbols, the title may repeat the control symbols. It may be acceptable to describe the items at the box level, including the full title of the first and last cards in each box, for example:

Control symbol: Abbotsbury - Fyshwick
Item title: [Abbotsbury - Fyshwick]
Control symbol: Gabbin - Mystic Park
Item title: [Gabbin - Mystic Park]
Photographs, projected media and sound recordings

In a series of photographs, films, tape recordings, etc, basic technical information about the item, for example, ‘glass plate negative’, should be added to the Medium attribute if it differs from that of the series. There is no need to put the medium in the title.

Photographs might have a number only inscribed on the front or back of the item, but the caption or title of the photograph may appear in accompanying control records - such as a register of photographs. If not included in the original item title - on, for example, the photograph itself or in a related control record(s) – or when imposing a title, a description of a photo should convey something of the subject of the photograph, in accordance with the 'Title' rules above, for example:

Item title: Official opening [of Sydney Harbour Bridge]

In higher value series, enter the photographer’s name, or include information on the artistic or creative contributors to the item, for example director, producer, major artists, etc, if it is readily available, in a Medium Note rather than the item title.

Maps, plans, charts and posters

Maps might only have a number inscribed on the front or back of the item, but a description or title of the item may appear in accompanying control records - such as a register of maps. If not included in the original item title - on, for example, the map itself or contained in a related control record(s) - or when imposing a title, a description of the map could be as follows:

    Item title: [map showing Bunbury city and environs and proposed tramlines]

The content can be described in the Item Descriptive Note to tell researchers something of the type, subject and geographic coverage of the map. Notes about the physical characteristics of the medium can be described in the Medium Note.

Relationship with other textual attributes

It may be necessary to consult reference staff and interest groups as to the type and amount of detail required over and above basic item information for identification and retrieval purposes. Also, such detailed attention to individual items is subject to resources and office priorities. The following (hypothetical) example shows the relationships between the title, descriptive note and medium information.

Series number D9000
Control symbol 40/3
Item title South Australia Railways Port Augusta and Eyre Peninsula line [plan and section of line beginning at Port Augusta]
Item dimension 100 x 40 cm
Medium note Scale: horizontal - 4 chains = 1 inch, vertical - 20 feet = 1 inch. The text is very faint and access to excessive and sustained periods of light could cause further fading
Medium  Linen drawing
Descriptive note This map shows the railway line, but also contains sketches of the flora and fauna that could be seen along the way. There are also names of the indigenous groups and the major pastoralists of the district
Contents date range 1876-1877

Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.1.2

Keyword headings


A keyword heading is a function or subject term that is applied to an item by the agency when the item is captured into the recordkeeping system or attributed by the Archives. There are primary headings and secondary headings. A secondary heading cannot exist without a primary heading.


The purpose of keyword headings is to add extra descriptive information that may not be apparent in the title. Such keywords may be added while the item is in the agency recordkeeping system and then transferred with the other item level information to the Archives for incorporation into the finding aids. Archives staff may also add extra keywords on examination of the item to give further details not apparent from the title. This extra information reduces the need for additions to the title, as the keywords are included in any searches.

Relative importance

This is an optional field, occasionally entered  by Archives staff, but most likely  lodged electronically by agencies (category 4).

Sources of information

Keyword headings may be allocated in the agency recordkeeping system from accepted schema, such as subject or functional thesauri, or through examination of the records by Archives staff. The source of the keywords is either Archives or Agency. Archives staff may not amend terms lodged by agencies.

Standards for content

Terms added in the agency recordkeeping system are usually selected from authorised thesauri or classification schemes of the initial agency recording. Where terms are added by Archives staff, as much as possible, the CRS Thesaurus should be used as the standard from which to apply terms. One or two levels only are required and in most instances, where added by Archives staff, one term is sufficient.


It is unlikely that these terms are amended over time, once they have been allocated. The Archives might add additional terms to those allocated by the agency.

Application notes

The circumstances where Archives staff might add additional terms could include the absence of a meaningful title or the imposition of a title by Archives staff. In many cases the combination of a title and keywords will be sufficient to describe the item without having to prepare a descriptive note. There is no validation on keyword heading terms, so if the CRS Thesaurus is insufficient, then enter words that offer the best enhancement. The situation where Archives staff might enter a term is more likely for older material, already in custody, where the transfer documentation was entirely paper-based or non-existent, and the control records offer little assistance to the accessibility of the item. It is not expected that staff will systematically examine subject index cards to find relevant terms to enter into this field. Rather the intent is to enable extra information where it is needed and readily identified.

There is no set limit to the number of terms, but it is unlikely that an item would have more than two or three primary terms. Non-preferred terms in the CRS Thesaurus should not be entered in this field. The following table contains a hypothetical example of both agency and Archives keywords attributed to an item.

Primary keyword Secondary keyword Source
Air safety   Archives
Inspections Flight inspection report Agency

Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.3.1