The Commonwealth Record Series (CRS) Manual

7.3. Series - Depth of description

On this page:

7.3.0.   Series depth of description
7.3.1.   Descriptive elements in series registrations
7.3.2.   Registration types
7.3.3.   Expression of dates
7.3.4.   Responsibilities for registration
7.3.5.   Preparing for registration
7.3.6.   Revising existing series registrations
7.3.7.   Recordkeeping
7.3.8.   Quality control and monitoring arrangements
7.3.9.   Other sources of information
7.3.10.   Last updated

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7.3.0.  Series Depth of Description

It is difficult to be prescriptive about the appropriate depth of description for any series. As a general principle, you should include as much data as is warranted by the nature and significance of the series.

The description of series containing permanent value records should receive relatively more attention than descriptions of series in which the records are wholly of temporary value.

While there are a large number of descriptive elements that can be included in a series registration, it is not necessary to use every element to satisfy archival requirements and the needs of staff and clients. While some elements are mandatory, most are optional. Some elements, particularly those for documenting relationships, can only be completed if a relationship exists and has been confirmed.

Where a series number is allocated to records stored temporarily on behalf of other institutions, only the mandatory elements and Agency Controlling field need be completed to the minimum depth consistent with management needs. Registrations serving this purpose do not need to be made available to the public. Availability codes should be applied to ensure appropriate lending restrictions and the provision of visibility in finding aids when permissible.

7.3.1.  Descriptive elements in series registrations

Each series registration consists of several descriptive elements. You must choose the elements and amount of information which are appropriate for the series being described. Information does not need to be included in every element. However, some are mandatory to establish a registration.

The elements have been categorised according to the role they play in the registration and description process. Four broad categories of relative importance have been established.

Category 1 Must be present for all registrations
Category 2 Must be present where applicable, to provide essential context or facilitate management
Category 3 Should be completed where applicable, to provide additional context
Category 4 Should be completed for significant registrations; may be completed in other cases.

Elements of series registrations are listed below.

Identification and descriptive elements Relative importance
Series number1
Series title1
Accumulation date range1
Predominant form1
Item dimensions1
System of arrangement and control1
Range of control symbols2
Contents date range2
Significant series4
Series descriptive note4
Relationship of series to agencies or persons
Agency/person recording1
Agency/person controlling2
Relationship to other series
Controlling series2
Controlled series2
Previous accession system transfers  note2
Series converted from note2
Previous series3
Subsequent series3
Related series3
Unregistered links note4
Control and management elements
Registration standard1
Archivist note2
Ownership other than Commonwealth2
Visibility and availability indicators2
Date modified1
Registration date1
User id1
Quantity in Archives custody2

7.3.2.  Registration types

In doing series registration work, it is sometimes necessary to register series that do not entirely conform to the descriptive standards. One of three codes are entered in the Registration Standard field should the series not meet the normal criteria for registration.

A provisional registration indicates that there is some uncertainty about specific aspects of the description, that is, the information cannot be confirmed. The system of arrangement and control may be circumspect or it has still to be confirmed that the records constitute a separate series, rather than being part of an existing series.

An unserialised registration indicates that it is known that the records are not part of the one series, but could be part of several series. Instances where this is required may be an urgent transfer from a personal depositor or the temporary transfer of records for a legal purpose.

An aggregate registration indicates the creation of an artificial series for the management of a group of records that normally reside in separate series. Items from different series may be described for a particular exhibition, to link items through a specific function or subject. Such items would retain their original control symbol and series number, but for these specific, and often temporary purposes, are also known by an aggregate series.

The status of provisional or unserialised registrations should be reviewed (and updated where possible) six to twelve months after initial registration, resources permitting.

7.3.3.  Expression of dates

The registration and description procedures require dates to be entered in certain fields. Some of these fields are formatted in a predetermined way to facilitate searching, sorting, validation, and consistency in reports. The standard date format is:

         DD Mon YYYY, eg 01 Jan 1954

If exact start and end dates are not easily identified, observe the following conventions:

Dates in text fields are not subject to validation However, for consistency, follow the standard for formatted date fields. In Unregistered Links Notes, the date range utilises the year only:

YYYY-YYYY: [title]


1954-1962: South Australia, Department of Harbours

In the Series Descriptive Note and similar 'prose' areas, give the names of months in full.

As a general rule, it is best to give the precise day only if it is known or readily obtainable. Otherwise, aim to identify the date range of a relationship with accuracy to no more than month and year.

Permitted date qualifiers are c (circa) and by. Use a date qualifier only if the year is in doubt. (Unless notes are kept to indicate the part or parts of the date to which a qualifier applies, the use of the qualifier can be misleading, especially when just year ranges and qualifiers are presented in reports.)

7.3.4.  Responsibilities for registration

Staff involved in the identification, control and description of records are responsible for identifying the need for and initiating series registrations. They are also responsible for updating and revising series registrations as a result of developments or changes in administration.

Staff responsible for personal records are primarily responsible for identifying the need for and initiating series registrations for personal records collections. They are also responsible for updating and revising those registrations.

There is no formal system of delegation. However, the most senior Personal Records Service representative and the officer in charge of registration and description in each office should nominate those staff who will undertake registration activities such as research, quality control, data input and retrieval.

Update privileges to RecordSearch are more restricted. As a rule, only those staff who have a good understanding of control and description procedures and have been trained in database input procedures should be recommended for update rights. See the RecordSearch help text for further information.

7.3.5.  Preparing for registration

Always check RecordSearch to see whether the records concerned have already been registered – more often than not the series has been registered.

You should try to have a distinct drafting stage in series registration work. The series input form may be used to draft new series registrations.

It is most important for you to assemble information before entering it on the database. If a Series Registration Proposal Form (NAS 234) has been submitted, it can be used as the basis for series registration, providing you have checked to ensure that the information supplied by agency staff is accurate, relevant and objective.

7.3.6.  Revising existing series registrations

If you are drafting amendments to existing series registrations, it is desirable to annotate printouts of the registrations before making changes to the database. You should consider the registration as a whole and not just update one field which may then contradict or be inconsistent with other data on the registration.

7.3.7.  Recordkeeping

Information gathered during the registration and description process can be documented in an Archivist Note attached to the series.

Decisions made in connection with the registration, justifications and explanations of anomalies can also be recorded in an Archivist Note. Correspondence with relevant agencies can be captured in the Archives recordkeeping system and cross-referenced to the record series through the series number. Therefore, it is unlikely that paper documentation will need to be maintained as the primary reference document.

7.3.8.  Quality control and monitoring arrangements

If you are preparing series registrations remember that each series registration is a finding aid in its own right, and that series registrations are intended to make it easier for staff and users to find relevant information about a series, its related records and its recording agency or agencies.

If you are preparing or revising registrations you are primarily responsible for ensuring that each registration is accurate, well presented and has an appropriate level of information in accordance with the Archives procedures. A simple step is to have someone else proof read or check the registration. Quality control and monitoring of registration and description is also undertaken by local supervisors and staff responsible for quality control nationally. Under no circumstances should registrations in draft form be added to the publicly available database.

7.3.9.  Other sources of information


7.3.10.  Last updated:  23 August 2004


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