Archives and manuscript collections exist throughout the Library of Congress, encompassing a wide variety of material types and subjects. Archival description encompasses the dual processes of cataloging and production of finding aids.
Archival repositories such as the Library of Congress routinely create detailed inventories, registers, indexes, and guides to describe their collections of primary source materials. These finding aids provide a comprehensive overview of a collection's scope and contents. They define the conditions under which a collection may be accessed or copied, explain its provenance, and contain histories of individuals and organizations connected with the collection. Descriptions of Library of Congress archival collections can also be searched in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Many Library of Congress archival collections are described by print finding aids available only in individual reading rooms.
Standards for Arrangement and Description
Encoded Archival Description (EAD)
This international standard for encoding archival finding aids is maintained by the Library of Congress in partnership with the Society of American Archivists (SAA).
Additional SAA Standards
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) An output-neutral set of rules for describing archives, personal papers, and manuscript collections that can be applied to all material types, DACS represents the U.S. implementation of international standards (i.e., ISAD[G] and ISAAR[CPF] [PDF, 1.21 MB]) for the description of archival materials and their creators.
- Encoded Archival Context - Corporate bodies, Persons, and Families (EAC-CPF) Maintained by SAA in partnership with the Berlin State Library, the EAC-CPF Schema is a standard for encoding contextual information about persons, corporate bodies, and families related to archival materials using Extensible Markup Language (XML).
In addition, other standards for cataloging rare material are maintained by the Bibliographic Standards Committee of the Rare Book and Manuscript Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.
Controlled vocabularies and authorized forms for name, subject, and genre/form can be found at the Virtual International Authorities File (VIAF), Library of Congress Linked Data Service, the LC Authorities, the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (TGM), the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), and the Ethnographic Thesaurus (ET), among others.
National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC)
A free-of-charge cooperative cataloging program operated by the Library of Congress, NUCMC creates online records in OCLC WorldCat on behalf of eligible archival repositories throughout the United States and its territories. The program's mission is further realized by the provision of free searching, via NUCMC gateways, of archival and manuscript cataloging.