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INFO 5240: Archival Arrangement and Description

Spring 2016

Professor Julie Judkins

Contact information:

Office number: (940) 565-2768

Email: (preferred contact method)

Office: Special Collections, Willis Library, Room 437

Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM by appointment only
Please call or email me ahead of time to schedule an appointment. Email is the best way to reach me because I’m often away from my desk. You can expect a response from me within 48 hours.
The instructor will contact students through the e-mail address they have connected to their Blackboard account. Please check this email on a regular basis!
Pre-requisite: INFO 5371: Archives and Manuscripts
INFO 5240: Archival Arrangement and Description is required to earn an Archival Management Graduate Academic Certificate ( from the College of Information.

This course provides an overview of the theoretical and methodical principles of archival arrangement and description. Emphasis will be placed on practical issues related to arrangement and description of physical and electronic records, in addition to best practices. Coursework will include mock arrangement and description exercises, review of professional literature, and discussion of relevant technologies.

Course objectives:

Upon completion of this course, you will recognize the archival vocabulary of arrangement and description and be able to justify your processing suggestions for a given collection based on your analysis of the collection’s specific needs. In the process of discussing professional literature with your fellow classmates under an instructor’s guidance and completing two processing plans (Assignment #1 and the final exam) and a finding aid (Assignment #2), you will develop competence processing and describing a collection from start to finish in accordance with archival standards. You will be able to predict common challenges related to arrangement and description and you will be prepared to employ critical thinking skills to meet these challenges. You will demonstrate comprehension of archival concepts by defending your answers to a series of essay questions on the midterm exam.


Assigned readings and other course materials will provide a basis for weekly course discussion.

You are expected to have read the assigned readings prior to the week they are assigned. You should be prepared to respond to the readings and interact with the instructor and each other through online discussions every class. All assigned readings and discussion post topics are available from the first day of class, allowing you to work ahead in anticipation of life events (i.e. the EOP exam), should you choose. This said, please email me if an emergency arises and you need an extension.
The processing plan assignment, finding aid assignment, and final exam all include a practical example collection in an ascending order of difficulty. These assignments are designed to allow you to dramatize and solve common challenges associated with the arrangement and description of an archival collection. The midterm exam will require you to synthesize a response to a series of archival questions utilizing class readings and discussion.
Primary Texts:
The two primary course texts are available in the Society of American Archivists web store ( If you are an SAA member, make sure to log-in prior to purchasing to receive a discount. Both texts are available as e-text, if you'd prefer.
Text #1: Roe, Kathleen D. Arranging & describing archives & manuscripts (Archival Fundamentals Series II). 2005.
Text #2: Archival Arrangement and Description (Trends in Archives Practice). Edited with an Introduction by Christopher J. Prom and Thomas J. Frusciano; featuring modules by Sibyl Schaefer, Janet M. Bunde, J. Gordon Daines, and Daniel A. Santamaria. 2013.
Grades will be based on the following:
Participation: 10%
For the purposes of this course, participation will require completing all assigned readings in a timely manner and active contribution in online course discussion, including posting original posts (threads) and responding to others’ posts.
To receive full participation points, you will be expected to:

  • Post an original post (thread) in response to the week’s discussion question (due each Wednesday we hold class)

  • Respond to at least one classmate’s post each week (due each Friday we hold class)

See the discussion board for exact post due dates.

Manuscript Processing Plan: 15%
Assignment Objectives: Identify the elements of a processing plan. Practice composing a processing plan by relating the course readings to a collection you might encounter in a future job. Demonstrate attention to detail and critical thinking skills when summarizing a collection’s specific needs. Defend your proposed processing plan by synthesizing knowledge gained from course readings and discussions in relationship with the collection description given.

Finding Aid Exercise: 15%
Assignment Objective: Identify the components of a finding aid and the rules outlined in Describing Archives: A Content Standard that correspond to individual components of a finding aid. Practice composing a finding aid by synthesizing the course readings in relation to a collection you might encounter in a future job. Demonstrate attention to detail and critical thinking skills related to the collection’s specific needs.
You should submit these assignments using the TurnItIn link provided in the “Assignment” folder in Blackboard. Late assignments will drop by one letter grade for each day late, no matter the quality of the assignment. Assignments will be considered a day late even if they are submitted several minutes after the deadline. Please be careful to submit your assignments on time. This will enable your instructor to get grades and feedback to you in a timely manner.
The midterm will be composed of short essays in response to a variety of topic questions. Students will be required to use class readings and outside readings to formulate a response to the topic question in the form of an essay.
The final exam will be a practical exercise related to arrangement and description. A mock collection will be presented and students will be asked to arrange and describe it as if they were a professional processing the collection in an archive. Although citations from course readings and discussion are not appropriate in this context, students are encouraged to use course materials for guidance.
Midterm: 30%
Exam Objectives: Summarize, explain, and evaluate major course concepts discussed to date in articulate answers to essay questions. Demonstrate understanding of the process and purpose of archival arrangement and description. Defend arguments with examples from course texts to demonstrate comprehension and completion of assigned readings.
Final Exam: 30%
Exam Objectives: Summarize and explain the steps involved in arranging and describing archival materials as they correspond to your judgment of a case study. Evaluate whether the case study is a candidate for minimal processing. Defend your proposed project plan based on content from class discussions, readings, and prior instructor feedback.
Students should submit exams using the TurnItIn link provided in the “Assignment” folder through Blackboard. Exams are due before midnight CST on the date shown in the syllabus. Exams turned in late will drop by one letter grade for each day late, no matter the quality of the assignment. Exams will be considered a day late even if they are submitted several minutes after the deadline. Please be careful to submit your assignments on time. This will enable your instructor to get grades and feedback to you in a timely manner.

Grading criteria:

The UNT scale for grading is:

A = 90-100

B = 80-89

C = 70-79

D = 60-69

F = 59 and below

Assignments will be graded in terms of completeness, accuracy, and appropriateness. This is a graduate level course, and students are expected to demonstrate the ability to write properly.
Grading Timeline:

Students can expect assignments and exams to be graded and returned with comments within two weeks of the due date.

Academic misconduct policy:

Cheating and disciplinary action for cheating is defined by the UNT Policy Manual Code of Student Conduct and Discipline. Cheating is an act of academic dishonesty. It is defined and is to be handled as follows:

“Plagiarism and cheating refer to the use of unauthorized books, notes or otherwise securing help in a test; copying tests, assignments, reports or term papers; representing the work of another as one’s own; collaborating, without authority, with another student during an examination or in preparing academic work; or otherwise practicing scholastic dishonesty.”
“Academic dishonesty matters may first be considered by the faculty member who may assign penalties such as failing, reduction or changing of a grade in a test, course, assignment, or other academic work, denial of a degree and/or performing additional academic work not required of other students in the course. If the student does not accept the decision of the faculty member, he/she may have his/her case heard by the academic department chairperson or head for review of his/her case. If the student does not accept the decision of the academic department chairperson, he/she may then follow the normal appeal procedures listed in Disciplinary Procedures.”
Americans with Disabilities Act compliance:

“Anyone with a disability that will require accommodation under the terms of federal regulations must present a written accommodation request to the instructor within eleven days after the first class session. Copies of the School’s ADA Compliance Policy, ADA Policy on Auxiliary Aids and Reasonable Accommodation, and ADA Grievance Procedures are available through the main office of the College of Information (ISB 205; telephone 940-565-2445). It is also recommended that you register with the Office of Disability Accommodation (University Union 318A, telephone 940-565-4323).”

Technology Requirements:

Students are expected to demonstrate general computer proficiency, as required by the College of Information upon admittance ( This proficiency will include knowledge of computing terminology and concepts, as well as minimal competency in the use of specific types of applications software.

Accessibility Requirements of Technologies Used in the Course:

Blackboard Learn:

Microsoft Office:


Websites hosted by the University of North Texas:
Online Discussions:

There will be a discussion forum established for each week of class except for Spring Break and the weeks you have off for writing your midterm and final exams. I expect you to post an original comment (i.e. start a new thread in the weekly forum) in response to the prompt assigned that week drawing from a combination of assigned readings, lecture materials and your own personal experience. You must post an original thread in order to view your classmates’ posts in the discussion forum. Your original thread is due on the Wednesday of each week we have class. Further, you are expected to read your classmates’ comments and generate discussion. You are expected to respond to at least one classmate each class week. Your response to a classmate is due by the Friday of each week we have class. I will participate in these threads as well.

In addition to the Weekly Forum there is a Student Forum where you may advertise archival related events, post job ads, or discuss anything else relevant to our class’s subject matter. The Student Forum is also a good place to post questions to me that you think other people may benefit from seeing. If you have a private question (regarding your grades, the need for an extension, etc.) please e-mail me directly at .
Students are expected to treat each other and their instructor respectfully during online discussions in accordance with Virginia Shea’s “Core Rules of Netiquette.” Although our course is online, you will be held to the standards of behavior expected of students in a traditional in-person classroom. When in doubt, follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated. For more information about netiquette please read: Failure to comply with netiquette guidelines may result in expulsion from the class.
In the event of a technical failure:

If you encounter a technical problem while using Blackboard that prevents you from meeting a deadline or otherwise prohibits you from fulfilling your obligations as a student (i.e. Blackboard crashes when you submit an assignment and you lose your work), I require that you send a Blackboard help desk ticket number in your email reporting the problem to me and explaining why you missed the deadline. Contact information for the Blackboard Help Desk is available on the Blackboard homepage. This policy is in place to prevent academic dishonesty.

Dates to remember:
All assignments are due by 11:59 PM Central Standard Time on the due date
Friday, February 26: Manuscripts Processing Plan (Assignment 1) due
Friday, March 11: Midterm exam due
Friday, April 1: Finding Aid Exercise (Assignment 2) due
Sunday, May 8: Final exam due

Course calendar:
January 19 – 22

Class 1: Introduction and overview of class structure
Module Objectives: Recognize basic archival vocabulary related to arrangement and description. Review syllabus and comprehend course structure. Identify any initial questions you have for your instructor about expectations or the course structure.

  • Review syllabus and intro PowerPoint posted to Blackboard under the Class 1 Module.

  • Post an introduction to the Class 1 discussion forum and read your classmates’ introductions. (For Class 1 every student who posts an introduction will receive full participation points. Starting with Class 2 you will need to post an original thread and respond to at least one classmate’s post to receive full participation points.)

  • Review the following definitions provided by the Society of American Archivists before our next class:

    • Archival processing

    • Arrangement

    • Levels of arrangement

    • Archival description

    • Finding Aid

January 25 – 29

Class 2: Overview of Arrangement and Description
Module Objectives: Review archival vocabulary related to arrangement and description. Distinguish how arrangement and description help provide access to a collection. Identify factors that impact the arrangement and description of a given collection.

  • Roe, Chapter 1: Overview, pgs. 1–10

  • Archival Arrangement and Description: Introduction, pgs. 1–7

  • Class 2 Lecture Notes (in “Course Content” under Class 2)

February 1 – 5

Class 3: Historical Context and Introduction to Major Theoretical Principles
Module Objectives: Outline history of arrangement and description practices in Western Europe, Canada, and the United States. Identify characteristics that influence how archival materials are described. Distinguish archival description from library cataloging of non-archival objects. Assess the purpose of levels of arrangement.

  • Roe, Chapter 2: Core Concepts and Principles of Arrangement and Description, 11 – 31

  • Roe, Chapter 3: The Context of Arrangement and Description, 33 – 44

  • Hintz, Carrie. “Processing Levels: The Hows and Whys.” Chaos -> Order blog. November 10, 2015.

  • Class 3 Lecture Notes

February 8 – 12

Class 4: Practical Basics of Processing
Module objectives: Outline workflow of archival arrangement and description. Employ understanding of procedures for arrangement and description to analyze an example processing manual. Prepare for Processing Plan Assignment by identifying elements of a processing plan.

  • Roe, pgs. 45 – 70; Appendixes B (pgs. 119-125) and C (pgs. 126-130)

  • UT-Arlington processing manual, 2011, 6th edition (example processing manual)

As you read the UT-Arlington processing manual keep in mind that not all of the UT-Arlington processing manual “rules” will not apply to all institutions. Instead they outline best practices as determined by a specific institution. Processing manuals at other institutions may vary in specifics.

  • Lyon, Meghan. “A Case for Processing Proposals.” Chaos -> Order blog. November 3, 2015.

  • Class 4 Lecture Notes

Begin Processing Plan assignment (due Friday, February 26th). Look under “Assignments” tab in Blackboard and submit via TurnItIn.

February 15 – 19

Class 5: Minimal Processing, a.k.a. “More Product, Less Process” or MPLP
Module Objectives: Define minimal or extensible processing, commonly known as “MPLP.” Summarize how minimal processing helps repositories reduce backlogs and provide earlier access to materials. Analyze four cases studies of MPLP’s use. Deconstruct whether Greene and Meissner’s preservation recommendations are valid.
(If you are taking the EOP exam this week, please email me to be granted a one-week extension on your discussion posts.)

  • “MPLP Statement of Principles.” pg. 1–5 (Available in Blackboard course content)

  • Greene, Mark A. and Dennis Meissner. “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing.” The American Archivist. Vol. 68 (Fall/Winter 2005): 208–263. (Available in Blackboard course content.)

  • Weideman, Christine. “Accessioning as Processing.” The American Archivist, Vol. 69 (Fall/Winter 2006): 274 – 283 (Available in Blackboard course content)

  • Harling, Adrienne R.S. “MPLP as Intentional, not Necessarily Minimal, Processing: The Rudolf W. Becking Collection at Humboldt State University.” The American Archivist, Vol. 77, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2014): 489–498. (Available in Blackboard course content)

  • Dennis Meissner & Mark A. Greene. “More Application while Less Appreciation: The Adopters and Antagonists of MPLP.” Journal of Archival Organization, 2010, 8:3-4, 174–226. (Available via UNT library catalog)

  • Phillips, Jessica. “A Defense of Preservation in the Age of MPLP.” The American Archivist, Vol. 78 (Fall/Winter 2015): 470-487. (Available in Blackboard course content.)

  • “Supervision, Management, and Planning” and “Appendix B: Case Studies 3 (Historical Resources Center) and 4 (American Civil Liberties Union)” from Daniel A. Santamaria’s Extensible Processing for Archives and Special Collections: Reducing Processing Backlogs. American Library Association. 2015. (Available in Blackboard course content).

  • Class 5 Lecture Notes

February 22 – 26

Class 6: Born Digital Content and Electronic Records; Non-Manuscript Archival Formats
Module Objectives: Identify the challenges presented by the arrangement and description of electronic records. Appraise how arranging and describing electronic records differs from analog materials. Interpret case studies related to the arrangement and description of electronic records.

  • Archival Arrangement and Description, Module 2: Processing Digital Records and Manuscripts, J. Gordon Daines III, 90–143.

  • Carroll, Laura, Erika Farr, Peter Hornsby, and Ben Ranker. “A Comprehensive Approach to Born-Digital Archives.” Archivaria 72 (Fall 2011): 61 – 92. (Available in Emory’s institutional repository:

  • Goldman, Ben. “Bridging the Gap: Taking Practical Steps Toward Managing Born-Digital Collections in Manuscript Repositories.” RBM vol. 12 no. 1: 11 – 24. (Available on the RBS website: )

  • Shallcross, Mike. “The MeMail Project: Digital Curation at the Bentley Historical Library.” Practical E-Records blog. June 2, 2011.

  • Bailey, Jefferson. “Disrespect des Fonds: Rethinking Arrangement and Description in Born-Digital Archives.” Archive Journal. Issue 3, Summer 2013.

  • “We’re All Digital Archivists Now: An Interview with Sibyl Schaefer.” Library of Congress. September 24, 2014.

  • Class 6 Lecture Notes

Assignment #1: Processing Plan assignment due February 26th
February 29 – March 4

Class 7: Finding Aids and Discovery
Module Objectives: Prepare for Finding Aid Assignment by identifying elements of a finding aid. Identify limitations of the current finding aid format and propose solutions based on case studies and reports. Analyze the American Heritage Center’s adaptation of their finding aids to facilitate a minimal processing workflow.


  • Roe, Appendix D: pgs. 131–145

  • Yakel, Elizabeth. “Encoded Archival Description: Are Finding Aids Boundary Spanners or Barriers for Users?” Journal of Archival Organization, 2004, 2:2, 63–77. (Available via UNT library catalog)

  • Maier, Shannon Bowen. “MPLP and the Catalog Record as a Finding Aid.” Journal of Archival Organization 9, no. 1 (2011): 32–44. (Available via UNT library catalog)

  • Allison-Bunnell, Jodi, Elizabeth Yakel and Janet Hauck. “Researchers at Work: Assessing Needs for Content and Presentation of Archival Materials.” Journal of Archival Organization, 2011, 9:2, 67–104 (Available via UNT library catalog)

  • Schaffner, Jennifer. “The Metadata is the Interface: Better Description for Better Discovery of Archives and Special Collections, Synthesized from User Studies.” 2009. Report produced by OCLC Research.

  • Class 7 Lecture Notes

Please also browse:

  • UNT Libraries finding aids

  • Princeton University Library finding aids

Begin working on your Finding Aid Assignment (due Friday, April 1st). Look under “Assignments” tab in Blackboard and submit via TurnItIn.

March 7 – 11: No class this week. Work on your midterm exam, due Friday, March 11th.
March 14 – 18: No class this week. Enjoy your Spring Break!
March 21 – 25

Class 8: Standards for Archival Description
Module Objectives: Identify standards governing archival description. Prepare for Finding Aid Assignment by reviewing rules outlined in DACS.

  • Roe, pgs 71–85; Appendix A (pgs. 111–118)

  • Archival Arrangement and Description, Module 1: Standards For Archival Description, Sibyl Schaefer & Janet M. Bunde, pgs. 12–20; 35–54

  • DACS: Describing Archives: A Content Standard

  • Class 8 Lecture Notes

March 28 – April 1

Class 9: Archival Data Structure Standards (MARC, EAD, EAC-CPF)
Module Objectives: Identify purpose and structure of archival data structure standards MAchine Readable Cataloging (MARC), Encoded Archival Description (EAD), and Encoded Archival Context – Corporate bodies, Persons and Families (EAC-CPF). Analyze EAD’s effectiveness as a technology, especially in light of recent revisions. Recognize important projects related to EAC-CPF.

  • Archival Arrangement and Description, Module 1: Standards For Archival Description, Schaefer & Bunde, pgs. 20–34; 54–68

  • “EAD Revision – Points of Emphasis”

  • Class 9 Lecture Notes

  • EAD Tag Library (browse)


    • Browse:

      • Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC)

      • Connecting the Dots: Using EAC-CPF to Reunite Samuel Johnson and His Circle (wiki); Connecting the Dots homepage (make sure to watch video)

      • People Australia

Assignment #2: Finding Aid Assignment due Friday, April 1st
April 4 – 8

Class 10: Access Systems
Module Objectives: Identify ways to display and provide access to archival description. Analyze the effectiveness of current access systems for archival description. Compare and contrast prominent archival access systems.

  • Roe, pgs. 86–93

  • Archival Arrangement and Description, Module 3: Designing Descriptive And Access Systems, Daniel A. Santamaria, 148–213

  • Matienzo, Mark A. and Kott, Katherine. "ArchivesSpace: A Next-Generation Archives Management System." in Museums and the Web, N. Proctor and R. Cherry, eds. (Silver Spring, MD: Museums and the Web, January 31, 2013).

  • Class 10 Lecture Notes

In addition to this week’s readings, browse the following resources:

Collective databases:

Online Archive of California (OAD):

Northwest Digital Archives (NWDA):

Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO):


Archives Hub:

EAD Access Tool:


ArchivesSpace public sandbox:

ArchivesSpace presentation at SAA:

April 11 – 15

Class 11: Challenges & Special Considerations
Module Objectives: Identify and appraise examples of challenges presented by technological innovation, description backlogs, and growing collections. Predict how these challenges could be overcome with insight from course readings and personal experience.


  • Dooley, Jackie M. and Katherine Luce. Taking Our Pulse: The OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives. 2010. OCLC Research. Read pages 9–14 (the Executive Summary)

  • Hutchens, Kate. “What are all those blue binders? Or, #FindingAidFriday meets #TBT.” Beyond the Reading Room. University of Michigan Special Collections blog. September 12, 2014.

  • Gracy, Karen F. and Frank Lambert. “Who's Ready to Surf the Next Wave? A Study of Perceived Challenges to Implementing New and Revised Standards for Archival Description.” The American Archivist. Spring/Summer 2014, Vol. 77: 96–132. (Available in Blackboard course content)

  • Morris, Sammie L. and Pam Hackbart-Dean. “Case Studies in Managing Collections That Grow.” Archival Issues, 2003–2004, Vol. 28, No. 2: 105–118.

  • Class 11 Lecture Notes

April 18 – 22

Class 12: Next Generation Archival Arrangement & Description
Module Objectives: Identify examples of current solutions that signal the future of archival arrangement and description. Analyze current solutions and predict what innovations will be needed in the future to provide excellent access to archival materials.

  • Roe, Conclusion: Future Directions, and Issues, pgs. 99–100

  • Prom, Christopher J. “Using Web Analytics to Improve Online Access to Archival Resources.” The American Archivist, Vol. 74 (Spring/Summer 2011): 158–184. (Available in Blackboard course content.)

  • Dunham, Elizabeth and Xaviera Flores. “Breaking the Language Barrier: Describing Chicano Archives with Bilingual Finding Aids.” The American Archivist, Vol. 77, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2014): 499–509. (Available in Blackboard course content.)

  • Ammidown, Steve. “Semantic URLs for Finding Aids.” Chaos Order. May 8, 2014.

  • Thompson, Timothy A., James Little, David González, Andrew Darby, and Matt Carruthers. “From Finding Aids to Wiki Pages: Remixing Archival Metadata with RAMP.” The Code4Lib Journal, Issue 22, October 14, 2014.

Final exam due Sunday, May 8th

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