Accessioning and Processing Manual

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The goal of this manual is to create a uniform system for accessioning and donor files to streamline and simplify administrative procedures and to work toward a more efficient approach of managing the SCRC. Detailed instructions, including standard language required in database fields, can be found in the SCRC's Archon User Manual.


Administrative Control

  • Accessioning should happen as soon as possible after a collection and all required paperwork has been received and completed.
    • All paperwork, including invoices, correspondence with donors and dealers, deeds of gift, etc. will be compiled by donor name, 'Purchases--Established Dealer Name,' ‘Purchases--eBay’, ‘Purchases--Miscellaneous’, office of origin (for transfers); for artificial collections, and in some cases collection name (example: ) an second copy will be filed under that respective heading. All accessioning files are kept in the filing cabinet in the Archives workroom.
    • Assign accession number from Excel spreadsheet on O-drive: include Acc. numbers, brief titles, and note if new accession is an addition to existing accession.
  • We will move toward a uniform handling of additions: new accessions that are additions to collections that already have a record, will be added to the existing record. We will make a note for each additional accession in the description field and the acquisition fields. The term ‘ongoing’ will be added to the date field at the time of first addition. We may decide on a case by case basis to go back and combine multiple records.

Initial Minimal Description and Determining of Processing Level

Goal: Make all collections accessible to researchers, even if it is not on the ideal level immediately. Work away at backlog while keeping up with incoming materials at the same time in a fashion that will basically eliminate the unprocessed status in the near, foreseeable future. It is understood that with this new approach of immediate yet less detailed processing, researchers are given the advantage of access to previously ‘hidden’ collections, while possibly having to spend more time on site working with said collections. Archivists may also spend more time helping researchers with those collections that have minimal finding-aids. Time spent by staff on the reference end can also be translated into description as we may be able to document data when assisting the researcher with a collection. Overall, we believe these steps are worth taking and will result in a significant improvement of our services.

a. All accessions will receive a minimal descriptive entry, which is made directly into Archon as part of the accessioning process, which includes fields that used to be part of the accessioning forms/databases and some additional ones: creator, title, date range, physical extent, collection level description summary, a few subject headings, call/accession number, restrictions, acquisition information, and the physical location. These steps will ensure the accession is immediately searchable and available to researchers and SCRC staff. (see appendix for details on minimal level description) We are also eliminating the duplication of all descriptive efforts by skipping previously used forms, be it paper or WORD documents, etc. b. This initial accessioning is a form of minimal processing, which represents level 1 on a scale from 1-6, with 6 being the most detailed treatment a collection can receive both in physical as well as in intellectual handling. (see chart in appendix) c. While surveying material for the minimal accession description, the archivist will decide which processing level to assign each accession. Levels 5 and 6 should be reviewed by the APC. (see chart in appendix) d. Criteria that help the archivist to determine in how much detail a collection should be processed and described include (not necessarily in this order): i. Relevance/use to WM students, faculty, & staff ii. Relevance/use to non-WM users iii. Organization of collection upon receipt iv. Preservation needs of the collection v. University vital or permanent record vi. Commitments made by SCRC or another campus office to a donor vii. Funds for processing donated with the collection viii. Collection size The same criteria will also help the APC in ranking the accessions in order of their importance, so that the ones deemed most valuable to our researchers get handled first. Criteria might be weighted differently for processing level and priority considerations. e. Collections as such are generally described at a less detailed level (like collection level, maybe series level) than artifacts, photographs, audiovisual items. Justification: Description at item level is needed to make these particular items accessible at all and we also have staff expertise at this point that we should use! Most of those items are either already being grouped into artificial collections or are going to be handled this way after this report is finalized and approved.

f. Technical things to consider during the initial accessioning process: i. Minimal, if any re-boxing and re-foldering is done at this point; later handling will happen according to priority level; just make sure that boxes are clean and hold together, fit on shelf, etc. Formats in immediate danger may be rehoused at this time as well. ii. Labeling the boxes in a clear and consistent fashion will give clear and legible information with a professional look. (see appendix for suggested label format; label template will be stored on O drive, so it’s accessible for all). If temporarily hand-written, writing should be in center of box, in pencil (as dark as possible to enhance legibility), so that it can easily be covered by a label. This is also more economical: boxes handled this way can be re-used more readily for other collections, and corrections and changes can be made more easily as well!


All additions to existed collections are assigned an accession number and processed as described above.

Fields to review and update in the existing record:

  • All date fields
  • Extent
  • Finding aid author
  • Location information
  • Creator
  • Collection description. A note such as this may be appropriate: "Material received after October 2008 (Acc. 2008.123 and 2008.133) is not described in detail as great as the earlier accession described in Series 1 and 2."
  • Restrictions (especially for university offices and papers of faculty and staff)
  • Acquisition information including updated accession numbers, donors, and dates
  • Finding aid information > Processing info. Depending on the size of the collection, how additions are handled, and if ongoing additions are expected a note such as the following may be included: "Processing and finding aid completed by Kate Hill in October 2008. Descriptions of new accessions added by Amy C. Schindler in November and December 2008."

Artificial Collections

UA Artifacts

Items are accessioned individually and added to the University Archives Artifact Collection.

  • Accession number assigned.
  • A description and accession information is added to Archon.
  • Supporting correspondence, notes, and other documentation filed in donor files.
  • Donor acknowledgment sent.

UA Audiovisuals

Single or small numbers of items are accessioned individually as received. A description and accession information is added to Archon.

  • Accession number assigned.
  • An accession of multiple items is added to Archon by a student. Nat has done the bulk of the work on this material. For instance, University Relations transferred 20 boxes of videotapes to the SCRC and each has been added to the database. See
  • Each item is added to the University Archives Audiovisual Collection or other collection as applicable.
  • Supporting correspondence, notes, and other documentation filed in donor files.
  • Donor acknowledgment sent.

UA Fliers, Posters, and Other Single Items

This material is usually collected from around campus in small quantities, so no accession number is assigned. If the material was received from a known donor, an accession number is assigned.

  • For student organizations, if there is a collection record for the group in Archon, the material is filed with the collection. If the group does not have its own collection, the material is filed in the Student Organizations Collection. If it is a large format poster, AV, or artifact it is filed with the appropriate University Archives collection.
  • For academic departments and offices, if there is a collection record for the department or office in Archon, the material is filed with the collection. If it does not have a record in Archon, one is created. If it is a large format poster, AV, or artifact it is filed with the appropriate University Archives collection.
  • Supporting correspondence, notes, and other documentation filed in donor files.

UA Photographs

Collections are processed as personal papers or organizational records. Photographs from College of William and Mary offices and departments are added to the University Archives Photograph Collection at the discretion of the University Archivist.

  • Accession number assigned; collection number assigned if it is a new collection.
  • Accession information added to record in Archon.
  • Photographs are filed by subject, which is the folder title.
  • The folder title added to the University Archives Photograph Collection.
  • Photographs are at a minimum filed in acid-free folders. If the condition of the photograph, supplies, staffing, or other circumstances allow, the photographs may be sleeved in mylar sleeves.
  • Supporting correspondence, notes, and other documentation filed in donor files.
  • Donor acknowledgment sent when applicable.

News Clippings

News clippings are sent to the University Archives daily. Staff also watch for other relevant clippings, etc. via Google Alerts or other means. Miscellaneous clippings also provided by volunteers, retired staff, miscellaneous alumni sent anonymously via postal mail, etc.

  • Clippings are sorted by volunteer weekly.
  • SCRC staff oversee students adding headings to collection record and file as needed.

Office of the President

All tasks completed by SCRC student workers are performed under close staff supervision and reviewed upon completion.

  • There is a small collection for the Office of the President that contains general information, but the majority of records of College of William and Mary presidents are organized by president. Each president's administration is assigned a collection number in the UA 2 range, so for instance the records of Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. have the collection number UA 2.16. (Note that any president who donates their personal papers is assigned a separate UA 2.xy call number.)
  • All accessions are re-housed by students.
  • Commonly restricted folder headings are noted by students and reviewed by staff
  • Box and folder lists are added to the SCRC database by students. Each accession is a series in the collection's database record.
  • To draft: labeling for potentially and/or restricted boxes; policy; and restricted records use form for researchers.

The same guidelines as above apply to the records of the Office of the Provost, but records of the Provost are not separated by individual provosts and personal papers of provosts are assigned collection numbers from the faculty and staff range.


The bulk of the university's blueprints of buildings and grounds are part of the records of Facilities Management.

The blueprints collection can be divided into two parts: the pre-2005 accessions are in need of rehousing (new boxes, rolls, wrapping in acid-free paper in some cases); while the post-2005 accessions require rehousing as well as description.

to be added somewhere in this manual

a. All collections that are not considered ‘done’ after initial accessioning and minimal description will be considered the ‘process backlog.’ To manage the process backlog the APC will maintain a combined priorities list (brief spreadsheet) for all of the SCRC. For practical purposes, the accessioning archivist will also assign a coded subject heading in Archon (ZZ1-ZZ6) so we can sort by processing level. b. Add accession into Conservation Survey Database, started (and to be continued) by the Presson Fellows, so the database will be complete and kept current once the fellows catch up to 2008.

4. Best Practices for Processing and Description

a. Since a minimal Archon record is all that some collections will have for quite a while (even if they are higher priority and will eventually receive more detailed attention) we will want to do this initial description in a consistent and standardized manner. Following DACS and the Archon User Manual in the SCRC Wiki ( when supplying entries for title, dates, physical extent, subject and genre, restrictions, etc. fields and always completing the record with collection location and creator is critical. b. We will assign a staff member to do quality control in Archon - checking all collections added for occasional errors and more importantly recurring mistakes, which can make identification and retrieval of records difficult for staff. The quality control staff member will bring issues in need of consultation or decision to the APC.

Donor Contact

Extracting Bibliographic Records from Archon

  • University Archives thoughts: Remove 540 and 541 fields.
  • Add citation field.
  • Add restriction information if applicable.
  • 856: insert language for finding aid available online.
  • 99: remove all #s and / pre-UA number; so in 00/02/UA 5.023 remove 00/02/.

Extracting EAD/XML Files from Archon