CRS Manual - System of arrangement and range of control symbols

System of arrangement and control


The system of arrangement and control is an alphabetical and numerical sequence given to link items in a series and to identify items individually.

The System of Arrangement and Control entry for a series defines the form and validation for the entry of item control symbols within a series, together with how they are sorted relative to other items within the same series. Where the system of arrangement is annual single number, the accumulation date range is also used to validate the item control symbol, for example;

Accumulation date range is 1975 - 1995.  Item control symbol must be between 1975 and 1995. It may not be outside those two dates.

Where records within the one series have been controlled under several systems over time (top-numbered from one system to another), use the last system of arrangement and control in general administrative use by the agency or person recording. In these cases, use the Series Descriptive Note to describe previous systems of arrangement and control.


The system of arrangement is used to show the system by which the agency arranged or controlled the items within a series. In the majority of cases, this original order will be accepted as the basis for subsequent storage and retrieval by the Archives. Several attributes are also used to show a system of arrangement imposed by the Archives when the original control system is absent or dysfunctional for archival management. The information in the attributes will also be used to validate and sort item entries. It does not replace the need for professional judgment in assessing into which series an item belongs, but acts as a crucial check for the electronic lodgment process. The validation process also acts as a check on the conversion, to make sure items are not accessioned into the wrong series.

The requirement for precision in identifying a system of arrangement is offset by the increased validation, consistency, retrieval efficiency and sorting functionality.

Validated attributes for a system of arrangement will ensure consistency between the System of Arrangement entry on the series registration and the control symbols for items in the series. It will not always prevent inaccurate entries from being made in the system of arrangement but will provide feedback during item entry in many cases where the two cannot be reconciled.

The validated attributes seek to improve retrieval of items through series number and item control symbol by developing a validated system that can:

Relative importance

This field must be present for all registrations (category 1). However, some attributes are optional or have default settings, so not every attribute has to be entered manually. If the series being registered is one of the most frequently occurring and does not have prefixes, suffixes etc, then only one value needs to be completed.

Sources of information

To determine the system of arrangement and control, examine the records themselves, or the agency recordkeeping system.

Standards for content

The system of arrangement and control comprises several attributes. In most instances only a few need to be entered manually and most have defaults to reduce the need for manual entry. The combined information is then used for validation and sorting of item numbers and for generation of the system of arrangement entry on the series registration.

Valid entries for attributes vary:

Drop-down menus for each attribute contain the valid entries. Further details can be entered under the System of Arrangement and Control subheading in the Series Descriptive Note.

The table below shows how the groups of attributes work together. More detail is provided in the 'Application notes'.

Arrangement decisions
Attribute Explanation Relative importance
Arrangement typeSelect from list for most common type Mandatory
Arrangement textUse if ‘Other’ selected in Arrangement Type Optional


Prefix validation
Attribute Explanation Relative importance
Prefix mandatory Y/N to state whether a prefix has to be part of the control symbol Mandatory
Validate prefix Y/N to state whether one or more prefixes are allowed Mandatory
Valid prefixes Lists valid prefixes, eg A or G NT Mandatory if Validate Prefix chosen
Prefix sorting Determines the role of prefixes in creating sort orders – mostly ignored Mandatory
Sort by title Sort alphabetically whatever the system of arrangement Optional


Control symbol standardisation
Attribute Explanation Relative importance
Standardise control symbol Mostly set to Yes to convert letters to uppercase Mandatory
Spaces valid Y/ N decides whether control symbols can have spaces (except before PART & ATTACHMENT) - mostly No Mandatory
Component delimiter Decides what punctuation symbols are valid within each control symbol  (/,-, . , allowed) Mandatory
Subcomponent delimiter Decides whether secondary punctuation allowed eg, 1970/1-1971/2 (both / and are permissible) Optional
Control symbol test Enter a control symbol and this will be validated against the values above to check whether they have been set correctly Optional


Take extreme care when revising a system of arrangement and control as it is possible that modifications will result in existing registrations failing validation. A new registration may be required if it is subsequently found that a system of arrangement and control is so different that it cannot be accommodated within an existing description.

Application notes

Where prefix validation is to be enabled for the series, enter the list of valid prefixes for the series. Other attributes may also be specified, eg

The system of arrangement is comprised of several components, which together constitute the complete system of arrangement and control.

If you select one of the predominant systems of arrangement, a predetermined description of the arrangement type will automatically be entered. If you choose  'Other' as the arrangement type then no predetermined text will be entered and you will need to manually enter a description. 

In most instances only a few entries will need to be completed. The optional fields contain defaults, which for the majority of series can be ignored. It is only with really complex multiple number or alpha-numerical series with non-standard sorting order that the majority of the system of arrangement elements are required.

In general, there should be one overall system of arrangement determined for each series. First identify the primary system of arrangement in use (using the standard terms in the table below) and then identify subsidiary characteristics such as prefixes and component delimiters.

The meaning of any prefixes, infixes or suffixes used to identify records should be explained under the System of arrangement and control subheading in the Series Descriptive Note except where the meaning is apparent from the overall characterisation of the system. Any unusual features of the system such as block allocations of numbers, gaps in the numbering or inconsistencies should also be explained in the Series Descriptive Note.

Single item series

Where the series consists of only one item, use code 99 and enter 'One item only' in the Arrangement Text field.

No apparent system /Archives imposed arrangement

Where no control symbols exist, it may be necessary for the Archives to impose a system (usually a single number sequence) for ease of control, retrieval and return of items. An additional system of control may be superimposed where the original system of control is inadequate to control retrieval and return of items.

For practical purposes, items which would normally have been incorporated into a series but were not (on account of some intervening event such as the termination of the agency, or wartime evacuation) may be regarded as part of the series and may be allocated control symbols by the Archives for ease of control. If this occurs it must be clearly noted in the Series Descriptive Note.

Where there is no original control system, code 99 ‘Other’ can be used and the Arrangement Text entry should read 'None apparent', followed by a statement describing any rearrangement or order imposed by the Archives, eg

None apparent: single number system imposed by the National Archives of Australia
Secondary systems of arrangement and control

Some series may have two different levels of arrangement. A single item may have differing arrangement systems for the item entry and associated text entries.

Items: alphabetical
Entries: chronological

This is common for control records, registers (cards or volumes), bound volumes, and similar records. In this case, the primary system of arrangement for items is identified in the main System of Arrangement entry, and the secondary system of arrangement, for example, for entries, should be included in the text box or under the System of arrangement and control subheading in the Series Descriptive Note.

Unnumbered or uncontrolled systems

Items which are not already numbered or able to be controlled by symbols attached to their entries or contents may, on examination, prove to have been arranged in a chronological, alphabetical or some other sequence or combination of sequences not readily apparent. This system should be indicated. If the system identified is the result of conjecture (because of rearrangement or disorder), then this must be mentioned in the Series Descriptive Note.

Variations in arrangement of items from the one series

Some agencies vary the original system of arrangement or control for local storage or archiving purposes. For example, numerically registered files from a series may be kept in alphabetical order in a personnel sub-registry; or an agency may arrange numerically registered items in sets based on the year of death of clients where such sets would not be part of the normal storage arrangement when current. Such variations can occur in many forms, and usually reflect a convenience of administration on the part of the agency.

A degree of flexibility is required in determining how to treat such records, and the views of agency records managers and archivists should be sought. As a rule, the arrangement regime with the most efficient and comprehensive control system should be favoured, especially if the existence of each item is registered. In some cases, such as where the large quantity of records concerned makes restoration of original order an unrealistic proposition, it is appropriate to recognise the original system as applying to the series while in the agency, but also to recognise that the records are arranged under a different system when in the Archives' custody. Mention the original system in the System of arrangement and control subheading in the Series Descriptive Note.

You can also follow this approach where a series is broken into sets. Sets are formed when items are brought together by an agency as a distinct sub-sequence of the series for a particular purpose, for example, inactive index cards which have been extracted from the main (active) sequence, but retained as a set and popularly regarded as a set for reference. Sets that the Archives recognises within a series should also be mentioned under the System of arrangement and control subheading in the Series Descriptive Note. 

Arrangement type

This attribute is mandatory (category 1).

From an examination of the series or relevant documentation, identify the arrangement and control features and select a valid code from the table below. The code number has no significance other than as a unique identifier to each arrangement type. The code number does not display in reports.

Items can be controlled by combinations and variations of the arrangement types, for example, chronologically within alphabetical groupings. Include the variations and supplementary descriptive information about the system of arrangement and control under the System of arrangement and control subheading in the Series Descriptive Note.

Valid arrangement types

Code System of arrangement & control Definition and examples
1 Annual single number with year prefix The numbering recommences at one each year, ie 1959/1... 1959/100, 1960/1 etc. Prefixes, infixes or suffixes are sometimes used in conjunction with this system of arrangement, eg 1939/1/1530, where the number infix /1/ remains constant throughout the series. In some cases the letter prefix does not influence allocation or arrangement of the numbers within the same series, eg M1990/17, A1990/18, D1990/19, M1990/20 and so on.
2 Multiple number For subject-based systems using two or more numbers; each file has its own number generally preceded by several other numbers indicating the subject categories to which the file belongs, eg 7/008/69.

Single number

Items are arranged in numerical order from lowest to highest (1, 2, 3, 4 etc). This excludes single number imposed by the Archives, where it replaces an existing, albeit inadequate, control system.
4 Alphabetical Items are arranged in alphabetical order. More detail such as how strict the arrangement is, whether there are any unusual characteristics, to provide meaning, or the basis of arrangement such as by subject, keyword, person, department, place or thing, can be indicated in the Series Note.

5 Annual single number with year suffix The numbering recommences at one each year, ie 1/79, 3/79…..1/80. The century will be added automatically when standardisation has been applied.
99 Other Used when none of the above applies, eg

* when there is an unusual  system  of arrangement

* for single item series

* for Archives-imposed arrangements, particularly where the imposed system replaces control symbols that are inadequate for control.

If this code is used, enter a brief explanation in the Arrangement Text field (see example under 'Arrangement Text').

Standardise control symbols

This is a mandatory attribute.

The default is Y.

This element gives the option to have all control symbols standardised when entered manually or from agency recordkeeping systems. Valid entries for this are Y or N. If Y is entered, control symbols will be standardised to upper case format. It would be a rare situation where N would be chosen.

PT will be expanded to PART.

Att will be expanded to ATTACHMENT.

Prefix sorting

This is a mandatory attribute.

The default is 99.

This attribute indicates how prefixes are handled for sorting when one or more valid prefixes exist. See also 'Sort Ordering' where prefixes are not the primary sort key. Valid codes are in the table below.

Code Description Explanation
1 Prefix present but ignored for sorting The prefix will not be used in sorting.
2 Prefix first – left justified The prefix will dictate the sorting of items.




3 Prefix first – right justified




4 Prefix last – left justified




5 Prefix last – right justified




99 No prefix No prefix exists. Should be used for alphabetical series where there is no separation of the letters.
Prefix mandatory

This is a mandatory attribute.

The default is N.

This attribute indicates whether all control symbols must have a prefix. Valid codes are Y and N. If set to Y and there is only one valid prefix, the prefix will automatically be added to a control symbol if it is missing. For example, in series A8425, all items have an ‘F’ prefix. If Y is selected, the prefix will be added to any control number entered. When Y is selected and there are multiple prefixes, an error message will appear if a control symbol is entered without a prefix. Letters are converted to upper case. If N is selected it means that  items may or may not have a prefix, and no adding or validating occurs. For example, A750 has an occasional HA prefix, so the prefix would not be validated.

Spaces valid

This is a mandatory attribute.

The default is N.

This element refers to whether spaces in control symbols are valid. Codes for this entry are Y and N.

Component delimiter

This is a mandatory attribute.

The default is / (slash).

Item control symbols are broken up by symbols known as component delimiters. This element identifies what delimiters are valid for the series. Possible delimiters are:

If a slash is the only valid delimiter, 56.78 will be changed to 56/78. Spaces can also be valid delimiters (see ‘Spaces Valid’ above).

Any character found in an Item Control Symbol entry other than a space, number, letter, component or other valid delimiter for the series is considered invalid. Other component delimiters (slash, full stop and hyphen) not defined as valid will automatically be converted to the valid one for the series.

For example, where the component delimiter is a slash and no other valid delimiters are defined:

1-2-3-4-5 becomes 1/2/3/4/5
1971/72-1972/73 becomes 1971/72/1972/73
203.7.141 becomes 203/7/141
203!7.141 gives an error

Where the component delimiter is a slash, and hyphen is added as a valid subcomponent delimiter:

1-2-3-4-5 is unchanged
1971/72-1972/73 is unchanged
203.7.141 becomes 203/7/141
203!7.141 gives an error

The system automatically checks characters other than letters, numbers or spaces for validity against the component delimiter and subcomponent delimiter (if defined).

Subcomponent delimiter

This is an optional attribute. It includes:

Use this attribute if more than one component delimiter is used in a series. For example, if the control symbol itself is 1970/71-1971/72

'-' would be entered as the subcomponent delimiter.

Sort by title

This is a mandatory attribute.

The default is N.

Valid codes are Y and N. If this element is marked Y, then control symbols are ignored and items are sorted by title. This element is useful for series comprising case files with name titling but with random numbers allocated for control symbols. Setting this attribute to Yes will help to create control records to assist retrieval.

Sort ordering

This is an optional attribute.

Enter numbers separated by commas to indicate the type of sorting required.

If an entry is not made in this field, the components will be sorted from left to right.

This attribute identifies the order in which components of the control symbol are sorted. A comma-separated list of components can be entered in the order in which they should be sorted. This can be useful for sorting multiple number systems where one of the middle numbers indicates the name of a country. For example, if the entry was 2,1 the second component of the symbol would be used first for sorting.

Selected sort order Resulting sort of control symbols
Null1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
1,21 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
2,12 / 1 / 3 / 4 /
2,3,12 / 3 / 1 / 4 /
Validate prefix

This is a mandatory attribute.

The default is N.

Valid codes for this element are Y and N. If Y is entered, all prefixes are checked against the list of valid prefixes for the series. This attribute is usually used in combination with the Prefix Mandatory attribute. If Y is entered, then see Valid Prefixes attribute.

Arrangement text

This is an optional attribute.

Where the arrangement type is 'Other', this attribute is used to enter a text description of the system of arrangement and control. For example;

Arrangement type: Alphabetical
Arrangement text: Items are arranged alphabetically, and the entries within each item are arranged chronologically

Other validation elements such as component delimiters, sort order and the like may apply.

Valid prefixes

This is a mandatory attribute if Valid Prefix is set to Y for Yes.

It is not applicable if Valid Prefix is set to N for No.

This attribute lists all valid prefixes that appear in the control symbols for the items in the series. The meaning of these prefixes should be explained under the System of arrangement and control subheading in the Series Descriptive Note. It is particularly important to ensure that this list is complete and correct when Validate Prefix is set to Y.

Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.3.4


Range of control symbols


The range of control symbols is the first and last symbol used in the system of arrangement that imposes order on items in a series. They are mostly the control symbols imposed by the agency at time of registration into the recordkeeping system. The symbols may have been imposed over a previous control symbols. Where the first and last symbols are not known, the last known symbols are added.


The purpose of this attribute is to indicate the boundaries of the series for identification and verification. It is also designed to provide an example of typical control symbols used on the items and to record the date the range of control symbols was updated.

Relative importance

This attribute should be completed where applicable, to provide additional context (category 2).

Sources of information

Consult the records themselves, or agency recordkeeping metadata.

Standards for content

This is a concise text field. Where the arrangement of text within an item differs from the arrangement of items, enter a range for both items and entries.

Item details included in publicly available registrations must adhere to the Archives policy on the release of item level information (see Access Manual, section 3B.3). Do not include particulars of sensitive or security classified items in this entry without the express approval from Access in each case.

Date last modified

The date the Range of Control Symbols entry was last modified is automatically added to the entry. It is not entered manually. For example, if the entry was updated on 17 July 1999, it would display:

1976/857 – 1978/765 (as at 17 July 1999)


The range of control symbols can be manually updated with new transfers of a continuing series, or receipt of item level metadata from agencies. There is no automatic update of the control symbol attribute following receipt of item level metadata from agencies or as a result of the addition of new control symbols by Archives staff. There is no validation against the system of arrangement, but every effort should be made to ensure accuracy of format of control symbols.

Application notes

The control symbols (numbers/names/dates etc) of the first and last items in the system should be given. Note that this may not be the order in which items were incorporated into the series, eg

1931/1 - 1947/256 or
40/5/16 - 95/7/81 or
Aardvark - Zoetrope.
Levels of control

It is common in series of registers, bound volumes, etc for there to be two distinct levels of control, for items and entries, eg

Master file list for correspondence files, annual single number series

Items: 1901 - 1976
Entries: 1901/1 - 1976/5164

Both levels should be included in the entry and expanded as appropriate under the System of arrangement and control subheading in the series descriptive note.

Incomplete or continuing series

If a series is incomplete, the first and last extant items should also be given, and the reason for incompleteness noted in the Series Note. If there are gaps in the series, this should also be indicated, eg

1934/1 - 1948/52 (with gaps) extant.

If the series is continuing, provide the latest verified control symbol, if known.

Archives-imposed arrangements

Where the Archives has imposed an arrangement on part or all of a series, indicate this by placing the relevant numbers or symbols in square brackets, eg

[1] - [20]; [A] - [F]


Where sets are part of the system of arrangement/control, indicate the range of control symbols for each set in the Series Descriptive Note, eg

Set 1: Beaches - Zoology
Set 2: Architecture – Town Planning
Set 3: Abattoirs – Yalta

Representation of dates within item numbers

Where item control symbols include abbreviated dates, for example, 44/256 (where 44 stands for 1944), the Archives has adopted the practice of referring to the year in full for item level entries. In such cases, give the control symbols as follows, to alert users to the practice:

1944/1 - 1944/256 [expressed on items as 44/1 etc]

Relationship to ISAD(G): 3.3.4