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Chapter 5, Description in ArchivesSpace

Chapter Contents:

Introduction

These guidelines are designed to help processing archivists describe audiovisual records in finding aids using EAD2002 and DACS standards in ArchivesSpace, which is the current set of standards and tools used for archival description at the Smithsonian Institution. Basic guidelines for AV description in finding aids are integrated into the Archives’ general processing manual. The goal of these more detailed guidelines is to answer as many of the potential questions that arise during processing due to the variety and complexity of audiovisual materials and mixed media collections. For many collections, only a small portion of these guidelines will be applicable. 

the Archives’ current practice is to create item records for audiovisual recordings when they are digitized, and file-level records describing surrogates. See “the Archives Item Descriptive Cataloging Guidelines (AV)” on the Archives' shared drive for more information. 

Organization of Description Guidelines

Guidance in this chapter is organized in three parts: collection-level description, series-level description, and folder/item-level description. Each part has sections for any element that may be involved in audiovisual description, with the notes typically used at that level grouped together. Elements requiring some description of audiovisual materials are listed as “required,” and elements that could be used for audiovisual description under certain circumstances, are listed as “optional” at the beginning of each section.

5.1 Collection-level description

Required collection-level Elements for AV Description

  • Abstract / Scope and Content
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Existence and Location of Copies

Optional collection-level Elements for AV Description

  • Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use
  • Existence and Location of Originals
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Processing Note
  • Sponsor Note

Abstract/Scope and Content

Include the audiovisual materials in the collection description in both the abstract and scope and content note. Use formal titles, form and genre terms, subjects, dates, creators, or geographical information as appropriate to describe the type of recording, its content, or the context of its creation.

Use the general material designation (i.e. sound recordings, video recordings, motion picture film or some combination of these terms) to refer to audiovisual materials in the collection abstract and scope and content note, rather than specific format terms (e.g. sound cassette, or videocassette (VHS)), which should only be used in the physical description at the file/item level of description.

If the entire collection, or an entire series in the collection, consists of a certain type of audiovisual content, use an appropriate form/genre term to describe the material in the abstract and scope and content note. Examples of common forms and genres of audiovisual content sometimes found in large quantities in collections of the Archives of American Art include interviews, lectures, panel discussions, radio programs, television programs, and home movies.

Example 1: The Museum of Contemporary Art Interviews measure 8 linear feet and contain video interviews with artists, curators, and an art collector, conducted by the staff of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago between 1979 and 1986.

Example 2: The State of the Arts video recordings measure 2.4 linear feet and consist of video interviews, studio footage, footage of gallery installations, and three sets of handwritten notes, all created during the production of a pilot episode for a broadcast television documentary series on contemporary art in 1979.

If the collection contains some AV but is not mostly or all AV, include at least a form/genre term or the general material designation (i.e. video recordings, sound recordings, motion picture film) in the abstract and first paragraph of the scope and content note, among the other types of material found in the collection.

If the collection-level scope and content note includes additional paragraphs beyond the first paragraph (also the abstract), more specific details about the intellectual content or context of creation of the audiovisual records can be included there. However, a series-level scope and content note is the preferred place for more detailed description of audiovisual materials.

Example of abstract/first paragraph of scope note: The exhibition records of the Contemporary Study Wing of the Finch College Museum of Art measure 20.4 linear feet and date from 1943 to 1975, with the bulk of records dating from the period its galleries were in operation, from 1964 to 1975. Over two-thirds of the collection consists of exhibition files, which contain a wide range of documentation including artist files, checklists, correspondence, writings, photographs, interviews, numerous films and videos, artist statements, printed materials, and other records. Also found within the collection are administrative records of the museum, artist files, and papers of the Contemporary Wing's director and curator, Elayne Varian, which were produced outside of her work at Finch College.

Example of detailed paragraph in scope note: Video artworks, recordings of performances, or components of multimedia artworks are found by artists Vito Acconci, Kathy Dillon, Douglas Davis, Dan Graham, Les Levine, Bruce Nauman, Michael Netter, Eric Siegel, and Robert Whitman. A film of the Art in Process: The Visual Development of a Structure (1966) exhibition is found, and video recordings of artists Lynda Benglis, Michael Singer, and Sam Wiener form as part of the documentation for the Projected Art: Artists at Work (1971) exhibition.

Conditions governing access note

If there are any audiovisual materials in the collection that have not been digitized, include the following statement in a Conditions governing access note:

Archival audiovisual recordings must be digitized for research access. Researchers may access digitized audiovisual materials in the Archives’ Washington, D.C. or New York, N.Y. Research Centers by appointment.

If all of the audiovisual materials in the collection have been digitized, include the following statement in a Conditions governing access note:

Researchers may access digitized audiovisual materials in the Archives’ Washington, D.C. or New York, N.Y. Research Centers by appointment.

If AV material is concentrated in certain series or consists of one or two items, use this note at the series or file/item level in addition to the collection level.

To determine of AV material in a collection has been digitized, consult the Archives’ CIS/DCD. The DCD should be consulted rather than the public website to be sure you are seeing all digitized content, since restricted items or items in process may be suppressed from the public site. Item records may also be a good source of description for your finding aid. For AV-rich collections with many item records, the item metadata can be exported from the CIS/DCD and uploaded into ASpace using a spreadsheet template. See the AV Archivist for help with this.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use Note

Occasionally donors will retain copyright or otherwise impose reproduction restrictions specifically on audiovisual materials in collections. If this is the case, as of this writing it will be noted in the 540 field of the MARC record. Include any such statements in a collection-level Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use note in ArchivesSpace.

Example 1: Copyright for video recordings retained by SUNY at Albany. Authorization to publish, quote or reproduce requires written permission from Jack Finch, SUNY Albany, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, N.Y. 12222.

Example 2: Authorization to quote or reproduce the sound recordings requires written permission from the donor.

Although it is not unusual for audiovisual recordings to have third-party rights holders associated with them, we do not make any blanket statements regarding special copyright considerations for audiovisual material in our finding aids unless the intellectual property for the AV was specifically treated differently by the donor. Otherwise, AV in collections falls under the same terms of use of other copyrighted material in the collection.

If AV material is concentrated in certain series or consists of one or two items, use this note at the series or file/item level in addition to the collection level.

Existence and Location of Copies note

Include an Existence and Location of Copies note at the collection level if any of the audiovisual materials in your collection have been digitized at the time of processing. Use the words “all” or “some” rather than specific numbers.

Example 1: All of the sound recordings in this collection were digitized for research access in 2009-2010 and are available at the Archives of American Art offices.

Example 2: Some of the video and sound recordings in this collection have been copied for research access and digital copies are available in the Archives of American Art offices.

If AV material is concentrated in certain series, use this note at the series level in addition to the collection level.

If there are AV items in the collection that have not been digitized, do not mention this in the finding aid. We do not have a routine for updating finding aids when we produce access copies, so any such note could soon become out of date and misleading to researchers. Simply include a conditions governing access note as above. Collections with some but not all digitized should have both notes.

To determine of AV material in a collection has been digitized, consult the Archives’ CIS/DCD. The DCD should be consulted rather than the public website to be sure you are seeing all digitized content, since restricted items or items in process may be suppressed from the public site. Item records may also be a good source of description for your finding aid. For AV-rich collections with many item records, the item metadata can be exported from the CIS/DCD and uploaded into ASpace using a spreadsheet template. See the AV Archivist for help with this.

Analog reference copies will not typically have item records, and should not be described in the collection-level Existence and location of copies note. They should be described in the extent of the file or item they duplicate, and in a note at the component level. See File/item-level description, Extent for details.

Existence and Location of Originals

If a significant amount of audiovisual material exists in the collection only in duplicate form, and the location of originals is known, provide information about the existence, location, and availability of originals in an Existence and Location of Originals note. This note is rarely used at the Archives, and if this information is provided in the Separated Materials note; it is not necessary to repeat it here.

Example: Videocassettes of Travis' travels to Africa, Greece, and Italy, are copies; original film reels were transferred to the Smithsonian's Human Studies Film Archives.

If only a small number AV records are found in duplicate-only form, it can be noted in the Physical Detail area of the Extent at the component level.

Processing Note

If audiovisual materials in the collection have been digitized, preserved, deaccessioned, or other significant actions taken on them, include a statement about this action in the Processing Note. As of this writing, significant actions are usually noted in a 583 in the collection SIRIS record. Always include the year of the action and provide the name/s of funders associated with the particular action they funded.

Example 1 (From the Hildreth Meiere papers): Nine reels of motion picture film were reformatted for research access in 2006, 2012 and 2015. The remaining 84 reels of film were digitized in 2015, funded by the The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University through a generous grant from the Ruth Dayton Foundation.

Example 2 (From the Seymour Lipton papers): Sound recordings were digitized for preservation in 2009 and 2013. Motion picture film was inspected and re-housed as part of the film assessment and re-housing project in 2016 and 2017. One badly deteriorated duplicate film was discarded at that time.

If audiovisual material in the collection was reformatted or processed with special funding, include a statement acknowledging the funding source in the Sponsor Note, found in the Finding Aid Data section of ArchivesSpace.

Example: Funding for the digitization of 84 reels of motion picture film in the collection was provided by The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University through a generous grant from the Ruth Dayton Foundation.

5.2 Series-level description

Required series-level elements for AV description

  • Scope and Content

Optional series-level elements for AV description

  • Title
  • Arrangement note
  • Conditions Governing Access note
  • Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use note
  • Existence and location of copies note

Scope and Content

If AV material is found in a series, your series-level Scope and Content note must describe it using some combination form and genre terms, general material designations, and any other specific details that warrant attention, as you would for any other type of material. Such details might include creator, formal titles, names, subjects or locations found in the content, or description of activities that resulted in the production of audiovisual materials.

As with all other narrative notes and titles in the finding aid, do not use specific format terms in the series-level scope and content note to refer to audiovisual materials; reserve such terms for the file-level physical description. Instead, use the general material designation terms: Sound Recording, Video Recording, Motion Picture Film, and/or Moving Images (when series contains both film and video).

If the entire collection, or an entire series in the collection, consists of a certain type of audiovisual content, use an appropriate form/genre term to describe the material in the abstract and scope and content note. Examples of common forms and genres of audiovisual content sometimes found in large quantities in collections of the Archives of American Art include interviews, lectures, panel discussions, radio programs, television programs, and home movies.

Example: This series contains 124 interviews with artists conducted by Colette Roberts, as well as scattered lectures, broadcast recordings, and other sound recordings created and collected by Roberts.

Title

If the series is entirely composed of AV material, use one of the following for a Series Title, listed here in order of preference:

  1. the formal title of the series if there is one, along with a form/genre term to clarify if needed; i.e. “Artscene” Radio Series
  2.  the form/genre of the series, if the series contains one or two types of recordings; i.e. Interviews, or Interviews and Lectures
  3. the “general material designation(s)” for the type of media found; i.e., Sound Recordings, Video Recordings, and/or Motion Picture Films. Moving Images can also be used for series containing both film and video. Use one or more of these terms when the series contains a variety of content. Avoid using “Audiovisual Material.”

If AV material is included in one of the Archives’ conventional series with other types of records, and the conventional series title seems to contradict or hide the presence of the AV material, add form or genre terms if necessary for the series title to be accurate. For example, if recorded lectures are arranged with a Writings series, change the series title to Writings and Lectures. See Chapter 4, AV Arrangement Guidelines for typical placement of AV materials in conventional the Archives series.

If there are a large number of audiovisual recordings in the series, make reference to their archival arrangement in a series-level Arrangement note.

Example: Interviews are arranged in rough alphabetical order by interviewee. Cross-references are provided for subjects occurring out of order on the physical tapes.

Example: Episodes are arranged chronologically by broadcast date.

The arrangement note can also be used to refer to related material in another series, whether audiovisual or paper documentation.

Example: See editing notes in Series 1 for the filmmaker’s original documentation of the content of each group of edited work print. Outtakes not included in work print are found in series 5.

If there is a concentration of AV material in a series, and any of them have not been digitized, include the following statement in a Conditions governing access note:

Archival audiovisual recordings must be digitized for research access. Researchers may access digitized audiovisual materials in the Archives’ Washington, D.C. or New York, N.Y. Research Centers by appointment.

If all of the audiovisual materials in the series have been digitized, include the following statement in a Conditions governing access note at the series level:

Researchers may access digitized audiovisual materials in the Archives’ Washington, D.C. or New York, N.Y. Research Centers by appointment.

If AV material is found throughout the collection, do not use this note for every series. Instead, use only the collection-level Conditions governing access note. Conversely, if AV consists of one or two items, use this note at the file/item level in addition to the collection level.

To determine of AV material in a collection has been digitized, consult AAA’s CIS/DCD. The DCD should be consulted rather than the public website to be sure you are seeing all digitized content, since restricted items or items in process may be suppressed from the public site. Item records may also be a good source of description for your finding aid. For AV-rich collections with many item records, the item metadata can be exported from the CIS/DCD and uploaded into ASpace using a spreadsheet template. See the AV Archivist for help with this.

Occasionally donors will retain copyright or otherwise impose restrictions specifically on audiovisual materials in collections. If there is such a restriction on AV material and that material is concentrated in a single series, include a Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use note at the series level.

Example 1: Copyright for video recordings retained by SUNY at Albany. Authorization to publish, quote or reproduce requires written permission from Jack Finch, SUNY Albany, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, N.Y. 12222.

Example 2: Authorization to quote or reproduce the sound recordings requires written permission from the donor.

Although it is not unusual for audiovisual recordings to have third-party rights holders associated with them, we do not make any blanket statements regarding special copyright considerations for audiovisual material in our finding aids unless the intellectual property for the AV was specifically treated differently by the donor as noted in the deed. Otherwise, AV in collections falls under the same terms of use of other copyrighted material in the collection.

If AV material is found throughout the collection, do not use this note for every series. Instead, use only the collection-level Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use note. Conversely, if AV consists of one or two items, use this note at the file/item level in addition to the collection level.

If a series contains a large amount of AV and most or all have been digitized for research access or preserved, enter a note in a series-level Existence and Location of Copies note.

Example:  All of the sound recordings have been digitized for research access.

If there are not access copies, either for a single item or series of AV material, do not make mention of this in the finding aid. We will not update the finding aids when we produce access copies, so any such note could soon become out of date and misleading to researchers.

Required file-level elements used for audiovisual description

  • Level
  • Title
  • Extent 
    • portion
    • number
    • type
    • dimensions (required for film, otherwise optional)
  • Instance
  • Scope and content note (only required to note presence of transcript)
  • Conditions Governing Access note
  • Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use note
  • Extent, optional sub-elements:
    • Physical detail
    • Dimensions (optional for anything but film gauge, which is required)
  • Existence and location of copies note
  • Physical description note
  • Scope and content note

Required for all descriptive components, below the series level, the level attribute can be file, item, or subseries.

AV items are defined as intellectual items rather than physical items. Intellectual items may be comprised of multiple pieces of media, or multiple duplicate copies of the same content, often in different audiovisual formats. When describing such multi-piece items at the item level, use a single component of description, and express the extent and format in the physical description. See under Extent for more examples.

Describing audiovisual material in the aggregate is appropriate whenever such description provides sufficient intellectual and physical access to the group of media. Especially when minimally processing, grouping homogenous or closely related recordings together is preferable to a repetitive list of items.

When a collection contains a clear series of discrete media items, such as a collection of multiple interviews, lectures, events, or broadcast episodes, it is helpful to researchers and reference staff to list each item in its own descriptive component, choosing “item” for the level rather than “file.” In such cases, a file-level grouping or subseries can still be useful to clarify the nature or identity of the group at a higher level in the hierarchy.

                Example of file-level grouping:

Video Recordings of Annual Meetings, 1992-1995 (level = “file”)

6 videocassettes (VHS)

                Example of item-level list with grouping heading:

                                Interviews with Artists (level = “series” “subseries” or “file”)

                                                Bob Blackburn (level = “item”)

                                                David Bradford (level = “item”)

                                                Nancy Cox (level = “item”)

It is better to avoid using multiple item titles in a single component just because there are multiple tapes in a folder, or multiple items on a tape. If multiple items are found on a single tape or in a single folder, it is often easiest to understand their description if each item has a separate item-level component. If describing multiple items found in a single folder, use box/folder/item instances, repeating the box and folder instances for the sequence of items. See Appendix 5B: 3 Approaches to an AV Group for examples of these different cases.

Title

For folder and item title, you can describe media singly or in groups, depending on the arrangement, level of processing, and the content of the material. You can use a formal title if one exists, or you can devise a title from some combination of the creator name, subject, genre, location, or some other logical descriptor.

A note on unlabeled or poorly-labeled media

Avoid transcribing ambiguous media labels as a unit title, and never use a specific format term as a unit title. The title should convey what the intellectual content of the recording is, rather than what might be written on its case. If you don’t understand what a label means, it’s likely that researchers won’t either.

It is better to devise a title using form/genre terms if the type of content is known, and if not, consider playing the media to describe it adequately. If you are unable to play the media and can’t decipher its content from labeling or documentation, use the word “unidentified” with the general material designation as a title.

Examples:           Unidentified (Sound or Video) Recording

Unidentified Motion Picture Film

Unidentified Moving Images

If an archival label is not a suitable unit title but you would like to include it in the description, add it into the Physical Detail sub-element of the Extent.   

See the AV Archivist for help describing unlabeled or poorly labeled media.

Extent (required)

Audiovisual materials described in finding aids must include an extent at the file/item level. The extent should include at a minimum the quantity and specific format/s of media objects that make up the item or file. It is preferable to use the extent form to enter the metadata in the structured sub-elements provided by Aspace, but it is also possible to enter these details as an unstructured text string in a physical description note in some cases.

Click on “Add Extent” and use the structured sub-elements as follows.

Portion (required)

If you are describing the entire archival object in a single extent, choose “Whole” for Portion.

If you use multiple extents, choose “Part” under Portion for each extent.

You will need to use multiple extents for an archival object when the unit being described contains multiple formats of media, or when you want to use specific sub-elements to include details about some but not all of the media being described.

In all of the following examples, the Portion for each extent in italics would be “Part.” Occasions when you may need to describe multiple extents include:

  • When the unit being described is comprised of media in multiple formats

Example: Interviews with Robert Irwin, 1967       

1 sound tape reel

2 sound cassettes

  • When you want to add description in physical detail or dimensions that does not apply to all the media in the unit being described, for instance, when one is an original recording and the other is a copy.

Example: John Steuart Curry Home Movies, circa 1939

                                3 film reels, 8mm, original

                                1 videocassette (VHS), copy

  • When describing different types of production elements under a single heading

Example: Jacques Lipchitz Documentary, 1981

                                2 film reels, 16mm, final edit

                                8 film reels, 16mm, outtakes

In the above examples, the gauge of film would be entered into the dimensions field, and the type of element or copy would be entered into the physical detail field.

Number (required)

Enter the quantity of pieces of media for the unit being described.

You can only count a single type of media in each physical description. If there are multiple types of media present in the unit being described, use multiple physical descriptions.

a note on extent fragments

Occasionally, a single tape or reel will contain multiple items, or fractions of multiple items. This guideline spells out how to express their physical description and extent. The general rule is:

  1. In the extent of each item, include all tapes or reels on which any part of the item is found.

For example, if 3 tapes contain 2 items and one of the tapes has the end of one item and the beginning of the other, both items would have an extent of 2 sound cassettes.

  1. In order to explain the discrepancy this creates between the quantity expressed in the finding aid and the number of physical tapes in the collection, create a scope and content note for the item or file that
  1. expresses the extent and the fraction, and
  2. references the other item found on the tape as it is identified in the finding aid.

 

Example of extent fragments:

(title) Interview with Bob Blackburn

                (extent) 2 sound cassettes

(scope and content) Interview is on 3 sides of 2 sound cassettes; second side of tape 2 contains beginning of Interview with Romare Bearden

(title) Interview with Romare Bearden

                (extent) 2 sound cassettes

(scope and content) Interview is on 3 sides of 2 sound cassettes; beginning is found on second side of Bob Blackburn interview tape 2.

Type (required)

For Type, choose the specific format from the dropdown list. See Appendix 5A: Audiovisual Extent Types for the list of acceptable terms. See Chapter 6 for resources for identifying formats.

Physical detail (optional)

The Physical Detail sub-element can be used to record any detail about the item’s appearance, sound or image quality, or generation. If you have multiple notes to add to a single field, separate them with a semi-colon.

  • Color or black and white, silent or sound

These aspects of media recordings are often a part of item-level catalog records, but we don’t typically include them in finding aids. If you want to include this information, physical detail is the place for it.

  • Duplicates (and Originals)

If there are duplicates, you can create separate physical descriptions for each copy and note which is original and which a duplicate in the physical detail section of the extent. Only note copies that have physical media, not digital files.

If the duplicate is an old access copy made at the Archives, you’ll also add an Existence and location of copies note at the component level.

If the objects are duplicates of the same generation, for instance two VHS distribution copies of a film, or two vinyl records of the same title, use a single extent and write “Duplicates” in physical detail.

Sometimes we have duplicates that have no corresponding original recording in the collection. The most obvious examples are recordings with content that pre-dates the existing media format, like a VHS video containing 1950s home movies, or a CD with 1970s interviews. Make a note of this in “physical detail” or, if it describes an entire series, note it in the series scope and content note.

This type of duplicate is considered an “archival original” because it is the only copy we have, but since we cannot verify its faithfulness to the original, it can be useful to note its status for researchers. If the extent of such duplicate recordings is significant, and the location of the originals is known, use an Existence and Location of Originals note at the collection or series level.

Examples:          

Duplicate

Original

Copy of motion picture film original

Cassette is a copy made from an original sound tape reel. Location of original is unknown.

  • Quality of recording 

If material has been digitized and has serious sound or video quality issues, it can be noted in Physical Detail.

Examples:

Poor sound quality

Sound is distorted at the beginning of the recording

Poor video quality

  • Media labels

Use physical detail to transcribe labels on the media if you think they add to the description, or may be important to understanding its content, or the context of its creation or use. Indicate where the text is taken from in your note.

Examples:

Handwritten note on original box: “Iceberg”

Handwritten note on original cassette: "Telephone conversation for article"

  • Type of production element

This is particularly relevant for production collections, when you have multiple versions or types of elements that are artifacts of the production process. Although there are many terms used to describe parts of film or video productions, typical types of elements found at the Archives include:

Examples:

Camera original

soundtrack

work print

outtakes

sound on film

composite print

optical soundtrack

This piece of description can also be put in a Unit Title for a component if you are listing multiple media parts of a production, as long as a more descriptive title for the production is also included, or is included at a higher level.

Dimensions (required for motion picture film)

When describing motion picture film, the gauge of the film is required metadata, to be entered in the dimensions field (usually 16mm, 8mm, or Super8mm).

You can also use the dimensions field to record other dimensions like duration, diameter (for a sound tape reel, e.g. 7 inch or 3 inch) or footage length (for film, e.g. 1200 feet). Apart from duration, which is often unknown to the processing archivist, such details are not very helpful to researchers. Use sparingly.  

If you do list them, spell out the dimension label (“inch” not “in.” or ‘) and separate by a semi-colon and a space and list gauge first if multiple dimensions are included.

Examples:

8mm

Super8mm

Duration 2 hours, 35 minutes

Duration circa 90 minutes

16mm; circa 11 minutes

Be aware that the tape stock length (such as a 90 minute sound cassette or a 30 minute videocassette) is different from the known duration of the recording on the tape. Do not record tape stock lengths as duration in the finding aid.

To record the physical location of the material, click on “add container instance.”

Type

Choose “Audio” for any sound recording, “Moving Images” for any video recording or motion picture film, and “Mixed materials” if AV is found with other types of materials, or if sound and moving image are being described together

Top container

Follow instructions in the general processing manual for creating and using top containers. Most sound and video recordings will be housed along with other materials in regular collection containers. AV media that needs to be stored in special housing such as flat boxes (sols) should be described the way we describe material stored in OV folders. Film and oversized sound and video reels are treated as individual top containers.

AV-specific Top Container types

When films and oversized sound and video reels are described, they must be treated as top containers and individually barcoded. In such cases, in the Top Container field, click on the down arrow and choose “create.” Choose “Box” from the drop-down menu for the container type, and in the indicator field, use the next sequential number after all oversized containers are numbered, with a prefix designating the type of container it is. Prefixes for this type of material are:

  • FC for any film can
  • SAV for audio or video reels whose containers are 10.5” to 12” square
  • LAV for audio or video reels whose containers are 14”-15” square

Such sizes can occur for ¼” audio reels, as well as ½”, 1”, or 2” audio or video reels.

When AV instances use top containers such as these, leave the child and grandchild type and indicator blank.

Child type and indicator, Grandchild type and indicator

When AV material is housed in regular collection containers, use the collection box as the top container, and a folder or item as the child type.

  • Use the types Box/Folder for scattered AV items in a series with paper and other materials present, or when each intellectual AV component has its own folder, or spans multiple folders.
  • Use Box/folder/item for describing AV items in a folder in multiple, separate components.
  • Also use Box/folder/item for special boxes used within collection boxes, such as when cassette tapes are stored in shoeboxes inside larger collection boxes. In that case, the shoebox can be numbered and treated as a folder, and the cassettes within it treated as items. Be sure the physical tapes or reels can be clearly linked to the items being described, and add labeled dividers if not.
  • Box/item may be best for series of all AV material that span an entire box or multiple boxes. You may still use folders to maintain physical order within the box, recording all item titles and item numbers within it on the physical folder. If you do not use folders, label the physical item’s enclosure or case with its box and item number.

See Appendix 5B, 3 Approaches to an AV Group, for examples of each of these cases.

If only one or two AV items exist in the collection, and any of them have not been digitized, include the following statement in a Conditions governing access note at the file/item level:

Archival audiovisual recordings must be digitized for research access. Researchers may access digitized audiovisual materials in the Archives’ Washington, D.C. or New York, N.Y. Research Centers by appointment.

If the audiovisual material has been digitized, include the following statement in a Conditions governing access note at the file/item level:

Researchers may access digitized audiovisual materials in the Archives’ Washington, D.C. or New York, N.Y. Research Centers by appointment.

If there is more than one or two AV items, use this note at the series and/or collection-level as appropriate.  

To determine of AV material in a collection has been digitized, consult AAA’s CIS/DCD. The DCD should be consulted rather than the public website to be sure you are seeing all digitized content, since restricted items or items in process may be suppressed from the public site. Item records may also be a good source of description for your finding aid. For AV-rich collections with many item records, the item metadata can be exported from the CIS/DCD and uploaded into ASpace using a spreadsheet template. See the AV Archivist for help with this.

Occasionally donors will retain copyright or otherwise impose reproduction restrictions specifically on audiovisual materials in collections. If there is such a restriction on AV material and only one or two AV items exist in the collection, include a Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use note at the file/item level.

Example 1: Copyright for video recordings retained by SUNY at Albany. Authorization to publish, quote or reproduce requires written permission from Jack Finch, SUNY Albany, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, N.Y. 12222.

Example 2: Authorization to quote or reproduce the sound recordings requires written permission from the donor.

Although it is not unusual for audiovisual recordings to have third-party rights holders associated with them, we do not make any blanket statements regarding special copyright considerations for audiovisual material in our finding aids unless the intellectual property for the AV was specifically treated differently by the donor as noted in the deed. Otherwise, AV in collections falls under the same terms of use of other copyrighted material in the collection.

If AV material is found throughout the collection, use only the collection-level Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use note. Conversely, if a larger amount of AV is concentrated in a single series, use this note at the series-level in addition to the collection level.

Existence and Location of Copies

A folder/item-level Existence and Location of copies note can be used to distinguish when a duplicate of a recording is an access copy made by the Archives, rather than a vintage copy donated with the collection. The physical access copy should also have its own Extent, with a note in the “physical detail” field that it is a duplicate.

Examples:

Videocassette (VHS) is access copy.

Access copy available on 3 sound cassettes.

We will not update finding aids as items are digitized, but existing copies found in the collection during processing should be noted here. If there is both a digital and analog access copy at the time of processing, the analog access copy can be discarded.

Physical Description Note

Use a Physical Description note, instead of the structured extent fields, to describe the AV extent when the unit being described is comprised of AV and non-AV material, such as video or sound recordings with paper or printed material.

Examples:

Includes 1 videocassette (VHS).

Includes 2 sound cassettes.

The other type/s of records found can be described here as well if not apparent from other parts of the description. For example: “Includes 2 sound cassettes and printed material.”

A physical description note can also be used in place of the structured extent fields to summarize the physical description of a complex audiovisual component in a single, unstructured text string. This approach may be appropriate for media productions where a single component might have dozens of pieces of media associated with the component, and the archivist is minimally processing.

Example: Includes 4 film reels (16mm workprint), 4 soundtrack film reels (16mm full-coat mag), 2 original sound tape reels, and duplicates on 6 videocassettes (3 U-matic, 3 VHS).

In most cases, at whatever level of processing, describing the quantity and format of AV material in the structured extent elements is preferred.

Scope and Content

Use a Scope and Content note at the component level for any added description of the content of recordings described in the component, such as:

  • Transcripts (required) or other related paper records

Examples:

Includes transcript

Paper note found with original box

Film lab records found in film can

  • Unexpected content found in a recording, such as fragments that are partially taped over

Example: Reel begins with a 70 minute fragment of a circa 1977 interview with Robert Irwin.

  • Content that does not match the label on the media

Example: Original label on reel reads "Josh Young, tape #2, side 1," but there is no recording of Josh Young on the reel.

  • Blanks or unrelated content, particularly at the beginning of a recording.

Examples:

First 37 minutes of recording is popular music.

Interview begins 10 minutes into recording.

  • When sequence of multiple pieces of media needs to be explained.

Example: Sequence of original recordings unclear, but appears to be cassette marked "afternoon tape" first, cassette marked "eve one" second, and reel marked "tape at house" third.

  • Use a scope note when creating a dummy component for a cross reference, such as when a separate recording is found on the same physical tape.

Example:

In the component that refers to the physical tape, note the additional recording:

Reel also includes circa 43 minute interview with Bruce Conner, October 1974, on side 2 beginning around 46 minutes into tape; also found is a brief fragment of an interview with Paul Karlstrom

In the cross reference, create a dummy component with the subject of the additional recording as a unit title (in this example, Bruce Connor), and note the physical location in a scope and content note:

See Joan Brown, Box 1 item 11

  • Type of media artwork

For collections containing media that is an artwork or part of an artwork, it may help researchers to specify exactly what the media object is and how it relates to the artwork.

Examples:

Multi-channel closed circuit video performance.

Recorded artifact of interactive video and sound installation.

Sound recording from multi-channel video and sound installation.

Appendix 5A: Audiovisual Extent Types

The following extent types are available to use in the Smithsonian’s Archivist’s Toolkit database, in the dropdown list of the Physical Description popup window. Please do not use other AV terms you might find in the dropdown list, as they have been deprecated. The following terms are based on IASA Cataloging Rules for extent types, with modifications requested by Smithsonian AV archivists.

To designate format in unit titles at the series, folder, or item level, use one or more of the three “general material designations”:

  • Sound recordings
  • Video recordings
  • Motion picture films
  • Moving image material (when describing film and video together)

For the physical description at the folder/item level, choose from the following “specific material designations:”

  • sound cassettes
  • sound cassettes (DAT)
  • sound cassettes (microcassette)
  • sound tape reels
  • sound tape reels (NAGRA SN)
  • sound wire reels
  • sound discs
  • sound discs (lacquer)
  • sound discs (vinyl)
  • sound discs (aluminum)
  • sound discs (CD) 
  • sound discs (Minidisc)
  • sound cartridges
  • sound cartridges (Fidelipac)
  • sound cartridges (8 track)
  • sound cylinders
  • sound track film reels
    videocassettes
  • videocassettes (VHS)
  • videocassettes (VHS-C)
  • videocassettes (S-VHS)
  • videocassettes (U-matic)
  • videocassettes (Betacam)
  • videocassettes (BetacamSP)
  • videocassettes (Betamax)
  • videocassettes (Video 8)
  • videocassettes (Hi8)
  • videocassettes (Digital Betacam)
  • videocassettes (MiniDV)
  • videocassettes (D-1)
  • videocassettes (D-2)
  • videocassettes (HDCAM)
  • videocassettes (DVCAM)
  • videocassettes (DVCPro)
  • videocartridges
  • videodiscs
  • videodiscs (DVD) 
  • videodiscs (Blue Ray)
  • videodiscs (laser)
  • videoreels (2 inch)
  • videoreels (1 inch)
  • videoreels (1/2 inch)
  • film reels
    • put gauge in “dimensions”
  • film cartridges
  • film cassettes
  • film loops 

Appendix 5B: Three approaches to an AV Group

Below are examples of three different ways to handle the container list for the same group of AV recordings. The first is the most minimal, with all items described in one group and multiple extents, and a scope note to bring out some details. The 2nd uses the box/folder/item instance approach, with more detailed notes and dates at the item level. The 3rd uses a box/item instance, and should only be used when creating an item-level box inventory for an entire box.

Having the item-level instance may be important down the road for linking digital AV surrogates to finding aids, so using either box/folder/item or box/item is recommended for collections where online access to the AV recordings is anticipated.

  1. Group described as a single component, with 3 physical descriptions, and 1 scope/content note:

Processing archivists should not feel obligated to use the item instance, or even to include all the item-level labeling found on recordings in their description. A component-level scope note for a grouping with key access points can save time when entering data. In this case, the instance is box/folder.

Box        folder

6              20-24     Interviews with Graffiti Writers, 1972-1974

                                                2 sound tape reels

                                                7 sound cassettes

                                                1 sound disc (CD)

Includes interviews with Tracy, Chi-Chi, Martinez, Lonnie, Phase 2, T-168, Cat, Cliff, Zest, and Cyde Pel

  1. Items listed individually, with box/folder/item instance:

 

Box        folder    item

6                                             Interviews with Graffiti Writers

6              20                                           "Graffiti Tapes," undated

                                   2 sound tape reels

6              21                                          "Meeting in studio with Tracy, Chi-Chi," undated

                                  1 Sound cassette ; label reads "First side transfer from reel 2"

6              22           1                              "Martinez Graffiti," 1973 December 20

                                 2 Sound cassettes ; 1 and 2 of 3; 3 not found

6              22           2                              "Lonnie, T-168, Spring 1973," 1973

                                1 Sound cassette

6              22           3                              "Phase 2,T-168, Cat, use 1," 1974 March

                               1 Sound cassette

6              23                                          "Jack in studio with graffiti writers.," 1974

                              1 Sound disc (CD) ; label reads "Cut from the film Wild Style, which follows"

6              24           1                             "Lonnie," 1972

                             1 Sound cassette

6              24           2                             "Tracy, Chi-Chi, Cliff, Zest, Clyde Pel in Studio," 1974 April 19

                             1 Sound cassette

  1. Same as example 2, above, but using a box/item instance method:

Use this method only when an entire box is being described at the item level. If mixed with folder-level description within the same box, all AV components should have folder numbers, too, as in examples 2 or 3 above. In this example, physical folders are still recommended to maintain order in the box, and multiple headings and item numbers should be written on the physical folder when there are multiple items in a folder. If housing small AV objects in shoeboxes, the shoebox may be treated either as a top container or as a folder within a larger collection box.

Box        item      

6                              Interviews with Graffiti Writers

6              1                              "Graffiti Tapes," undated

                2 sound tape reels

6              2                             "Meeting in studio with Tracy, Chi-Chi," undated

                1 Sound cassette ; label reads "First side transfer from reel 2"

6              3                              "Martinez Graffiti," 1973 December 20

                2 Sound cassettes ; 1 and 2 of 3; 3 not found

6              4                              "Lonnie, T-168, Spring 1973," 1973

                1 Sound cassette

6              5                              "Phase 2,T-168, Cat, use 1," 1974 March

                1 Sound cassette

6              6                              "Jack in studio with graffiti writers.," 1974

                1 Sound disc (CD) ; label reads "Cut from the film Wild Style, which follows"

6              7                              "Lonnie," 1972

                1 Sound cassette

6              8                              "Tracy, Chi-Chi, Cliff, Zest, Clyde Pel in Studio," 1974 April 19

                1 Sound cassette

Next Chapter: Chapter 6, Identifying and Dating Archival Audiovisual Formats