The Commonwealth Record Series (CRS) Manual

7.4. Series - Descriptive elements

On this page (3 of 3) :

7.4.7.   Predominant form
7.4.8.   Item dimensions
7.4.9.   Quantity in archives custody
7.4.10. Ownership other than Commonwealth
7.4.11. Significant series

Go to:  Series descriptive elements - page 1 | page 2

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7.4.7.  Predominant form

Definition | Purpose | Relative importance | Sources of information | Standards for content | Amendments | Application notes | Relationship to ISAD(G) | Last updated  Definition

Predominant form means the predominant form of items that make up the series being registered.  Purpose

The purpose of this field is to enable staff and users to search for series that have items of a specified form, generally referred to as a form or genre. At series level the form is intended to provide a general indication of the various physical types of record.. Items inherit the predominant form value from the series, until overridden at item level. Changes at item level do not affect the description at series level. Where the general form needs further explanation there are several places where the extra information can be held:  Relative importance

This field is mandatory. It must be completed for all series (category 1).  Sources of information

For information, examine the records themselves.  Standards for content

Select an appropriate term from the predominant form thesaurus.

Predominant FormDescription
Paper files and documents 
Index cards(also used for registration cards)
Bound volumes 
Cartographic recordsMaps, plans or charts in all media
Photographs for negatives, positives and prints 
- colour, or black and white
Audio-visual records for cine film and video formats
Audio records gramophone discs, audio tape
and digital formats
Electronic records 
3-dimensional records models and objects
Scientific specimens 
TextilesLinen drawings, banners, flags  Amendments

Amend the entry when the predominant form changes with new transfers for continuing series.  Application notes

Identify the predominant or main form of the items in the series. Use the appropriate term from the table above. Variations from this predominant format can be indicated in the Series descriptive note or at item level in the Medium code or Medium note.  Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.1.5  Last updated:  30 Jan 2001

7.4.8.  Item dimensions

Definition | Purpose | Relative importance | Sources of information | Standards for content | Amendments | Application notes | Relationship to ISAD(G) | Last updated  Definition

The item dimensions are the general physical dimensions of the items that comprise a series. For each predominant form there is a range of pre-set item dimensions from which to choose. The dimension values are linked to the predominant form through a thesaurus.  Purpose

The purpose of this field is to indicate the predominant size of the items that make up a series for descriptive and storage management purposes. The item dimensions are inherited for all items in the series and the dimensions are set in the dimensions attribute at the series level. The values may be changed in the dimensions attribute at item level, without affecting the series.  Relative importance

This field is mandatory. It must be completed for all registrations.  Sources of information

Information can be obtained from the records themselves or details from recordkeeping systems maintained by Commonwealth agencies.  Standards for content

This element could be considered a sub-element of Predominant Form as the dimensions can only be valid for a specified predominant form entry. Select from the list of standard values for the form identified in the Predominant Form attribute which will appear at this entry. Identify any individual variation from the general size at the item level or in the Physical characteristics subheading in the Series Descriptive Note.  Paper files and documents  Index cards  Cartographic records  Bound volumes  Audio-visual records  Electronic records  Photographs  Paper Files and Documents

The standard convention for the measurement of paper files and documents is to record the width of the document first, (across the page from left to right), and then its height, (from the top of the page to the bottom). If the material on the document is in ‘landscape’ format, (that is that the material on the page runs from what would normally be considered the bottom of the page to what would normally be regarded as the top of the page), then measurement should be undertaken in the manner described above, regardless of the position of printing on the page.

The International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) specifies internationally agreed paper sizes in standard ISO 216 : 1975 Writing Paper and certain classes of printed matter – Trimmed Sizes – A and B Series. The standard utilises measurement in millimetres in defining standard paper sizes. For example:

A4 Size Paper – 210 x 297 mm

A4 size paper is most often used for letters, magazines, forms, catalogues, laser printer and copy machine output.

The ‘list of values’ in the RecordSearch system should reflect this standard. Therefore the value for A4 size paper should be entered in precisely the following way, noting the inclusion of spaces to assist legibility:

    210 x 297 mm

The International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) also has a standard for envelope sizes. ISO 269 : 1985 Correspondence envelopes – Designation and sizes, specifies metric envelope sizes and corresponding standardised dimensions. (The Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V issued standard DIN 678 which confirms this convention as does DIN 680). Envelope sizes are measured in millimetres. The following is an example from the ISO standard:

C5 Envelope – 162 x 229 mm

C5 envelopes hold A4 size paper folded once.

The convention for entry of dimensions for an envelope in the RecordSearch system should correspond with this notation and, with the inclusion of the spaces, should read as follows for a C5 envelope:

    162 x 229 mm

The ISO has also issued a standard for folders and files designed to contain and protect A4 size paper. Standard ISO 623 : 1974 Paper and board – Folders and files – Sizes, utilises the same metric dimension standards. An example from the standard follows:

Folders / Files very small back (less than 25 mm) – 240 x 320 mm or without a mechanism

If the dimensions of a file are to be recorded in the RecordSearch system then the following standard for entry, including the spaces, should be utilised:

    240 x 320 mm

If the item is a folder with a spine of 25 mm, giving it a ‘thickness’ or ‘depth’ of 25 mm, then the entry in RecordSearch should accord with the following example:

    240 x 320 x 25 mm  Index Cards

There does not appear to be a standard directly applicable to the size of index cards. The predominate sizes appear to have evolved as customary sizes which have been unofficially adopted as industry convention.

One of the most frequently used cards is the 3" x 5" index card. The sizing is pre-metric and the office supplies industry still appears to utilise this measurement in preference to its metric equivalent. The measurement reverses the otherwise established protocol for measuring width and then height.

In the interests of system consistency the measurement of index cards should be metric and should reflect the convention of measuring width and then height. This means that a 3" x 5" index card would be measured as:

    76 x 127 mm  Cartographic Records

Modern cartographic paper conforms with international paper sizes specified in ISO standard ISO 216 : 1975. (see the above entry on paper sizes). Older maps will not conform to the same standards, but for the purposes of regulated data entry it is proposed that all measurements be metric and that measurements be expressed with the width measurement preceding the height measurement. A map printed in B Series format in accordance with ISO 216 : 1975 as a B0 size map would be recorded in the following format:

    1000 x 1414 mm

Plans are now drafted and printed on paper that accords with international paper sizes specified in ISO 216 : 1975. As such, the same rules as those specified for cartographic records apply. For example a plan produced on A0 size paper would be recorded in the following format:

    841 x 1189 mm  Bound Volumes

There is no relevant standard for the dimensions of bound volumes or registers although there appear to be generally agreed industry conventions. Modern volumes and registers conform to the international paper sizes specified in ISO 216 : 1975, so all dimensions for bound volumes should conform to the standards described for paper sizes with the addition of a measurement of the ‘thickness’ or ‘depth’ of the volume. This measurement should appear as the last figure in the dimension field. So a volume in A3 format should be described in the following manner:

    297 x 420 x 25 mm  Audio-Visual Records

There have been and continue to be a considerable number of audio recording media types. Some of the less well known types include, Hart Recordograph Cellophane Film, Silvatone Aluminium Discs, Wire Recorder Reels, the Echomatic double coated colloidal graphite tape cassette, the Orrtronic 8-Ttrack Cartridge and the Minifon ¼ inch Tape Cartridge.

Although the media types listed previously are no longer in use, modern audio recording media still presents a large array of alternatives. Some of the modern types include, 90 minute Dynamic Cassette Tapes, 90 minute Acoustic Dynamic Cassette Tapes, 90 minute Metal Alloy Cassette Tapes, 80 minute Digital Minidiscs, 90 minute Digital Audio Tapes, 74 minute Rewritable Audio Compact Discs.

The standard format for recording the dimensions of audio recordings is to make reference to the media, rather than attempt precise measurements. By referring to an audio cassette tape in the following manner, anyone reading the entry will obtain a reasonable idea of what the item resembles in terms of its size and shape:

    90 min Metal Alloy Cassette Tape

Note the abbreviation and capitalisation in this entry.

As with audio recording formats, video and film formats have undergone considerable change since the invention of film itself. Some formats that have disappeared from use in film recording today include; 54 mm Le Prince Paperfilm, 63 mm Veriscope Film, 17½ mm Biokam Film, 28 mm Pathé Film, 75 mm Lumiére Wide Film, 63.5 mm RKO Natural Vision Film and 55.625 mm Cinemascope-55 Film. Besides the film emulsion bases described, there were a number of experimental formats adopted. These included; Demeny Phonoscope Glass Plates, 30 cm Leo Kamm Round Glass Plates, 6" Huet and Cie Cinéphot Double Magazine Discs and Spirograph Celluloid Discs.

Current film formats include the widely used standard 35 mm film, but there are still a range of other formats available. Some of these formats include; 8 mm Film, Super 8 Film, 16 mm Film and Super 16 Film.

You will notice that modern films are differentiated by their ‘gauge’, or loosely, their ‘width’. The standard for recording the dimensions of film in RecordSearch adopts the same approach:

    35 mm Film

Although a more recent format than most, video recording media is numerous and operates in accordance with a variety of standards.

There are 3 world standards for the format for recording and playing back video material:

The NTSC (National Television System Committee) Standard, the SECAM (Sequential Couleur Avec Memoire or Sequential Colour with Memory) Standard and the PAL (Phase Alternating Line) Standard. The PAL Standard is utilised in Australia.

There is also a wide range of media used to record video images. Some types are confined to the professional broadcast market while others are widely available to the general consumer market for use in Camcorders and other video camera types.

Some of the professional or industrial video media types include; M or M-II Tapes, EBU C Format Tapes, U-Matic HB (High Band) Tapes, D-1 Tapes and Ampex DCT Tapes.

Other formats are used in both professional and amateur markets. Examples of these media formats include; Betacam SP Tapes, Digital Betacam Tapes, DV (Digital Video) Tapes, Digital 8 Tapes, D-VHS Tapes, HDD-1000 Tapes.

If describing tapes like these then the format should conform with the following example:

    60 min DV Video Tape (PAL)

Note that the format of the recording follows the details relating to the physical media.

The video media available to operate in VCRs (Video Cassette Recorders) and DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) players also varies. A range of storage media have been utilised a few examples of which are; VHS Video Tapes, Beta (Betamax) Video Tapes, and DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) Discs. There are also some formats which are unlikely to be encountered including V2000 Video Tapes and N1500 and N1700 Video Tapes.

To enter details of video cassettes into the RecordSearch system should be entered in the following way:

    90 min VHS Video Tape (PAL)

Note that the playback format follows the physical details of the media on which the material is stored.  Electronic Records

Data storage utilises a wide range of media types and as with other media types described here, some is now obsolete.

Although unlikely it is feasible for a transfer to include hard drives in a variety of forms. Most had drives are located within the CPU (Computer Processing Unit), but some are removable or located externally. Such devices may include; the Pocket Drive external hard disc with USB or Fire Wire cable (6 Gb to 18 Gb capacity), RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Discs) Towers, Syquest removable hard discs (1.3 Gb on a dual platter) and Iomega Jaz removable hard discs (1 Gb and 540 Mb).

In addition to the storage media fundamental to the operation of the computer, there is a range of media available for storage of material generated on the computer but not fundamental to its operation. Such media includes;

From these descriptions it is evident that the technology varies in terms of standard measurement by virtue of its origin. The best method of standardising dimension descriptions is to maintain industry standards, despite the fact that this defies consistent metric measurement in the RecordSearch system. The description of a standard floppy disc should therefore be:

    3.5 inch Floppy Disc 1.44 Mb (Macintosh)

Note that the operating environment is also part of the description for this item.

A standard DDS Data Cartridge would be described in the following format:

    4.0 Gb 120 metre 4mm DDS-2 (Digital Data Standard) Data Cartridge

Note that the storage capacity, length and width of the tape are detailed before the description.  Photographs

As with other categories of media, photographic media consists of a wide range of types. An accession to the Archives may include film rolls, negatives and/or prints.  Amendments

If there is a significant change in the size or general character of items in a continuing series, the entry should be revised or a new series registered. Where the existing dimensions do not reflect the standard entries in the thesaurus, these should be amended. The dimensions are controlled by the thesaurus. These dimensions should be assessed and amended over time following an examination of the records or in the course of an arrangement and description exercise.   In a small number of instances where no values were attached to the dimension attribute, defaults based on the Predominant Form were added, even though they may not accurately reflect the measurement of the majority of items within the series. They will be amended over time.  Application notes

The following table contains examples of the pre-set item dimensions for predominant forms. They are not comprehensive, as the thesaurus may contain many dimensions for one predominant form. The conventions for the measurement of records are also included where applicable. The thesaurus itself can also be amended over time as new dimensions are identified for a particular predominant form.


Predominant form pre-set item dimensions


Measuring conventions
Paper files and documents 162 x 229 mm

210 x 297 mm

240 x 320 mm

240 x 350 mm

240 x 320 x 25 mm
Files should be measured in a 'reading' position. Order or measurement should be 

Width - across the top

Length - down the side
Index cards 76 x 127 mm

80 x 100 mm

100 x 130 mm

110 x 160 mm
In the case of cards (where each is a discrete item), the order of measurement should be: 

Width - across the top

Length - down the side
Bound volumes  297 x 420 x 25 mm Width x length x depth
Photographs   Measure width x length 
Microforms   Measure width x length x depth if applicable or diameter of microfilm roll
Audio-visual records 8 mm Film

Super 8 Film

16 mm Film

Super 16 Film

35 mm Film

60 min DV Video Tape (PAL)

90 min VHS Video Tape (PAL)
Measure the diameter of the circular storage container 
Audio records 90 min Metal Alloy Cassette Tape

90 min Dynamic Cassette Tape

90 min Acoustic Dynamic Cassette Tape

80 min Digital Minidisc

90 min Digital Audio Tape

74 min Rewritable Audio Compact Disc
Measure width x length or diameter if a gramophone
Electronic records 3.5 inch Floppy Disc 1.44 Mb (Macintosh)

3.5 inch Floppy Disc 2.88 Mb (PC)

4.0 Gb 120 metre 4mm DDS-2 (Digital Data Standard) Data Cartridge

CD-R (Compact Disc Readable) 650 Mb

DVD (Digital Versatile Disc)

DDS (Digital Data Standard) Tape (120 Metre Tape)
Diameter for floppy, compact, optical disk or computer tape. If not copied to a physical form, then it may also be measured in gigabyte or megabyte
3-dimensional records   Use default of Various and describe in detail in the Physical characteristics subheading of the Series Descriptive Note. Specific dimensions need to be added in the Item Dimension field
Scientific specimens   Use default of 'Various' and describe in detail in the Physical characteristics subheading of the Series Descriptive Note. Specific dimensions need to be added in the Item Dimension field
Cartographic records (maps, plans, charts) 841 x 1189 mm

1000 x 1414 mm 
Measure width x length if flat or length of roll
Textiles These will be various and the detail should be explained in the descriptive note

This is a mandatory field

The inclusion of dimension values in the thesaurus allows links to be made directly to the predominant form and allows a wide range of values for each, without the need to scroll through a long list of options. It also prevents inappropriate dimensions for particular forms. The use of a thesaurus will also increase the standardisation of the values and thus assist in storage and preservation strategies, as well as establishing duplication costs.  Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.1.5  Last updated:  30 Jan 2001


7.4.9.  Quantity in Archives custody

Definition | Purpose | Relative importance | Sources of information | Standards for content | Amendments | Application notes | Relationship to ISAD(G) | Last updated  Definition

Quantity in Archives custody refers to the amount of the series in the custody of the National Archives of Australia, with differentiation between original material and copies made by the Archives for reference and/or preservation purposes.  Purpose

The purpose of this field is to indicate to staff and clients the extent of the series in archival custody, so that they can make decisions, for example, about whether to visit the institution holding the records.  Relative importance

This field must be completed where applicable, to provide essential context or facilitate management (category 2).  Sources of information

Information for this field is extracted from the repository management control system. The information supplied by this system will include the quantity attributed to the series and the state in which it is located or where the agency responsible for the creation of the records is located. If there are no items in the custody of the archives then location details must be extracted from agency records.  Standards for content

The quantity is calculated in the location information management system but generally will present as follows:

0.18m held by CA 1729, Australian Archives, South Australian Office

Quantities in other locations will be displayed on reports.  Amendments

The series registration will be updated automatically  from the location system to reflect any variation (+ or -) in the quantity in custody.  Application notes

Copies of items located will also display from the location information management system. General information about copies are documented in the Finding aids subheading of the Series Descriptive Note.  Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.1.5, 3.5.2  Last updated:  30 Jan 2001


7.4.10.  Ownership other than Commonwealth

Definition | Purpose | Relative importance | Sources of information | Standards for content | Amendments | Application notes | Relationship to ISAD(G) | Last updated  Definition

Ownership other than Commonwealth refers to the current legal status or ownership (in terms of the Archives Act) of the series being registered and the items within that series.  Purpose

The purpose of this field is to identify, in broad terms, the current legal status of the series, where they are not Commonwealth records, for example, corporate or personal records. The separate status acts as a trigger for access and disposal regimes that may be at variance with the Archives Act.

See also policy for ownership other than Commonwealth  Relative importance

This field should be completed where applicable (category 2). It is desirable for management purposes. Items inherit this value from the series, so it is essential that it is recorded where appropriate.  Sources of information

For information, seek evidence of the ownership or control of the records.  Standards for content

Select the appropriate code from the table below.  Amendments

Any changes in the ownership and control of a series may have an impact on the legal status of the relevant series and items within that series. Instances where ownership may change include the sale of government businesses or the identification of Commonwealth records in a personal records collection.  Application notes

Recognising that changes in ownership of records do occur, this code allows the status of records to be altered, if necessary, without the need to alter the series number and other control details for records in custody. If non-standard access conditions have been set, these should be recorded in the Access Conditions Note. Other explanations such as disposal or custody conditions should be recorded in the appropriate subheading in the Series Descriptive Note.

An item may have an ownership value at variance with the series to which it belongs, but if the series requires one of these codes then all items have the same status. There could also be situations where the series registration does not need one of these codes but an item is subsequently found to need one. Items inherit this value, but any changes at item level do not affect the value at series level; however, it is important that the values are selected appropriately.

CORPNon-Commonwealth (corporate records)
INTGIntergovernmental records
MIXMixed Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth records
PERSNon-Commonwealth (personal records)
TERRTerritorial records, eg Christmas Is etc  Relationship to ISAD(G):  3.2.3  Last updated:  30 Jan 2001

7.4.11.  Significant series

Definition | Purpose | Relative importance | Sources of information | Standards for content | Amendments | Application notes | Relationship to ISAD(G) | Last updated  Definition

A significant series is a series which documents the main functions of the agency involved in its creation. Significant series may be correspondence file series, the main submission files of inquiries or case files.  Purpose

The purpose of this significance indicator is to highlight particular series when displayed in RecordSearch in order to indicate the relative priority or usefulness of the records. It may also act as a trigger for other processes such as storage location, possible lending action, pro-active access clearance and preservation strategies.  Relative importance

This is an optional attribute for certain types of series (category 4).  Sources of information

For information, examine the records.  Standards for content

This attribute is selected when the series is assessed as being and important series.  Amendments

Once being highlighted as significant, a series is likely to retain the value unless until it is largely destroyed or converted. In that case the series registration remains in the finding aids, but the significance indicator is removed.  Application notes

The attribute is selected by ticking a box entitled, 'Is this the main correspondence series for the agency?'.

When the series information is displayed, and this tick box has been selected, an asterisk appears in front of the series number, eg

* A11604, Correspondence files, multiple number series [fourth system, Djakarta/Jakarta], 1951 - 1960  Relationship to ISAD(G):  3.3.1  Last updated:  30 Jan 2001


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