University of Missouri - Columbia Archives

Policy Number 6: Description of Archival Records


All accessions of the University Archives will be described at the Series level using standard inventory methodology, eventually resulting in inventories published on the Archives Web Site. Accessions that have not yet been fully inventoried or have not been processed will be temporarily described on the Archives Web page in summary description form at the Series level. See Policy Number 9, Summary Descriptions, for more details on the development of these initial finding aids.


The purpose of this policy is to make uniform the description of the holdings of the University Archives in order to promote their access and use by the public and the University community.


This policy applies to all University of Missouri - Columbia Archives staff members and student workers.


4-1. The University Archivist is responsible for all decisions concerning the description of record collections within the Archives.

4-2. The University Archives staff and student workers (under staff direction) are responsible for the description for record collections within the Archives.


 5-1. Accession Number - a unique number assigned upon receipt to each group of records. The number begins with the letter "A", followed by the last two numerals of the current year, a hyphen, and the next number in sequence from that year's list of accession numbers. The number is usually set within parentheses, e.g., (A98-14).

5-2. Box List - a finding aid that describes the size and the contents of each box or container (within a multiple container collection) in a very generalized way.

5-3. "C" - part of the call number of a record group or sub-group which indicates that the records were created by an administrative unit of the University of Missouri-Columbia campus and not the University of Missouri System.

5-4. ca or ca. - abbreviation for "circa," an indication that a date is approximate and not exact. Its proper use is for records or documents for which there is no written date and the only evidence of the time and date is by inference from collection context. It is always written as "ca." on any web page.

5-5. Call Number - a number which provides two pieces of information about the collection or record group. The first letters either "UW" or "C", identify whether the records are System (University Wide) records or Columbia campus records. The numbers which follow indicate the originating office and the number of collections processed from that office.

5-6. Dates - dates of archival materials are noted in two forms, span dates and bulk dates. Span dates indicate the first and last date of materials in a body of records being described; bulk dates indicate the date span of most of the materials or the bulk of the records.

5-7. Kardex - manual card-index system that contains summary descriptions and control information on archival accessions.

5-8. Location Codes - these designations list the exact location of the records. There are four different designations:

5-8-1. Locker Locations - examples: 121, 3 represents a box located in cabinet # 121 on the third shelf; 134, 1-2 represents multiple boxes located in cabinet # 134 on the first and second shelves.

5-8-2. Vault Locations - examples: B3A, B6, 4 represents a box located in vault B3A in the 6th bay and on the 4th shelf; B3A, B2, 6 indicates a box or envelope or package located in Vault B3A in the second bay and on the sixth shelf. B3A, Cub indicates a box, envelope or item located in the book shelves of the B3A.

5-8-3. Seventh Floor Locations - examples: 704, 3, 3 indicates material is located in Lewis Hall room 704, Photo Vault, on the third range of shelving and on the third shelf; 703, MC locates records in Lewis Hall room 703, Archives Reading Room, and in the map cabinet; 723, 1, 2-3 represents several boxes located in Lewis Hall room 723 on the first range of shelves and on shelves two and three.

5-8-4. Records Center Locations - examples: 047862 locates material in the Records Center at the unique shelf address, 047862. Always list every box location, even when there is a range of Records Center box locations.

5-9. Series Description - description of the function or relationship of the records within a record series.

5-10. UMUW Form 171 - University Archives Inventory Worksheet.

5-11. UMUW Form 106 - University Archives Control Card, used in the Kardex File system.

5-12. UW - used as part of the call number of a body of records, it indicates that the records were created by an administrative unit of the University of Missouri System and not the University of Missouri - Columbia campus .

5-13. Accessioning Checklist - a form used to keep track of the steps in the process of accessioning, arranging, describing and the location of Archival records


6-1. An Inventory of Records must be completed after processing a collection. Use UMUW Form 171, University Archives Inventory Work Sheet, and begin by filling in all requested information.

6-1-1. Record Series may include a wide range of descriptions, such as correspondence, research material, manuscripts, photos, scrapbooks, club records, news clippings, ledger books, etc. Enter what best describes the material.

6-1-2. Volume should give the total cubic feet and linear feet of the collection, e.g., 3.0 cubic feet and 3.75 linear feet.

6-1-3. No.& Size of Files should give the exact count of folders in the collection or exact measurements of packages.

6-1-4. Representative should give the name and phone number of someone who might answer any questions or give more information about the collection. This can be obtained from the University Directory.

6-1-5. Description should give a detailed list of what is contained within the collection. Be as descriptive as possible, explaining the nature of the office or subject being inventoried. The finding aid, with file folder list, will be attached to this sheet later, so it is not necessary to give a detailed listing of contents on this sheet.

6-1-6. Arrangement should indicate Topical, Chronological, Alphabetical or other.

6-1-7. Retention Period should always indicate Archival Preservation. (See sample Inventory form on following pages.)

NOTE - If a newly accessioned body of materials is being added to an existing collection, a new Inventory sheet is not prepared. The collection contents are added to the existing Inventory sheet, noting the accession number and date of the new material. The same is true for the Control Card, Web description and Box List. Revise them to reflect the new addition. See Policy #7, Adding to an Established Collection, for more information about adding new materials to an existing collection.

6-2. A Control Card (UMUW Form 106) must be filled out after the Inventory is completed. The Control Cards in the Kardex file are similar in nature to the card catalog system in a library. They give the researcher an overall view of what is available in each classification or Record Group and a brief description of what is contained within each collection. The control cards in the Kardex file are color-coded as described below. Color coding is not as strictly adhered to, since the advent of web descriptions.

Blue cards are used for regular University records or manuscript material such as general correspondence, photographs, copies of speeches, etc.

White cards are used for printed materials such as bulletins, news releases, annual reports, etc.

Yellow cards - materials which require mechanical assistance to view them. These include microfilms, tapes, cassettes, movie films and video cassettes.

The Control Card (Form 106) should include all requested information including the accession number, title and dates of the collection, and a brief description of the contents. The location and volume of the collection are also entered on the card. (See sample Control Card on next pages.)

6-3. A Box List should be completed after the Inventory Sheet and Control Card have been completed. This list includes the classification number and titles for the classification, the dates of the collection, and the number of boxes or packages and their size. Across from each box or package should be entered a brief description of what each contains, such as the number of file folders in each, or other suitable description. The purpose of a box list is to provide some rudimentary information about how materials are divided among boxes. This container information allows the archivist to select and call back from the Records Center the most likely box(s) of material for research when a collection has not been processed or inventoried. A sample box list is located in the appendices to this section.

6-3-1. No Box List is created when a collection is immediately inventoried after being accessioned into archival custody. Creating a box list for an inventoried collection would be duplicative and confusing to the reference archivist.

6-4. Each box or package should then be identified with a label. If the boxes are intended for storage within the Archives building, then the small white label will be used. Cubic foot boxes require two labels, one on an end underneath the handle hole, the other on the left hand side of the box from the first label. 1/3 and 1/6 foot boxes require only one label, below the cover flap on the same end of the box as the pull string. These labels should contain the Record Group and Sub-Group titles, the dates of the collection, the collection number, and the box number.

If the boxes are intended for storage at the Records Center, the UMUW Form 121 label should be used. Only one is required on the end of the box under the handle hole. (See sample labels on exhibit pages.) Because this type of label has been known to come loose from the box, secure it with a piece of the wide, clear packaging tape.

6-5. The final step of the description process is the creation of the archival finding aid for the collection. See Policy #8, Archival Finding Aids, for details on the preparation of finding aids to archival records.

6-6. The accession and description process in the University Archives is by historical necessity a complex set of overlapping tasks; therefore, the Accessioning Checklist should accompany a collection through the various stages of preparing records for full public access.

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7-1. University Archives Inventory Work Sheet, Form UMUW 171, completed.

7-2. University Archives Control Card (Kardex Card), Form UMUW 106, completed.

7-3. MU Archives Box List, completed.

7-4. University Records Center Box Label, Form UM 121, completed.

7-5. MU Archives Box Label, completed.

(Revised: 12 August 2002)

Copyright © Curators of the University of Missouri 1997-2005
Published by: University Archives

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