n.a set of data crafted to identify and represent an archival resource or component thereof Smith 1938, 13–14The key to the whole collection is a large map of Canada on which are indicated all the widely scattered trading posts and headquarters of the company, each named on a little tab and given a number. Each number refers to the pressmark of manuscripts relating to that particular post and indicates the slip-catalogue in which detailed descriptions of the manuscripts may be found.Duranti 1993, 52In the 1930s in Europe, description began to be seen as a means for making the user independent of the archivist’s specialized knowledge, and to be aimed primarily at compiling “instruments of research” for the user, not the archivist. Moreover, the description activity acquired a non-evaluative character as a consequence of the recognition that its products, in order to be useful for every kind of research, had to serve none in particular.MacNeil 1995, 30Metadata systems capture and communicate information about transactions and the context in which they occur within an electronic record system. . . . Description, on the other hand, captures and communicates knowledge about the broad administrative and documentary contexts of records creation within an organization as a whole as one moves further away from the original circumstances of creation. Its purpose is to preserve, perpetuate, and authenticate meaning over time so that it is available and comprehensible to all users—present and potential.Pitti 1999Archival description represents a fonds, a complex body of materials, frequently in more than one form or medium, sharing a common provenance. The description involves a complex hierarchical and progressive analysis. It begins by describing the whole, then proceeds to identify and describe sub-components of the whole, and sub-components of sub-components, and so on. Frequently, but by no means always, the description terminates with a description of individual items. The description emphasizes the intellectual structure and content of the material, rather than their physical characteristics.Roe 2005, 13Description is the creation of an accurate representation of a unit of archival material by the process of capturing, collating, analyzing, and organizing information that serves to identify archival material and explain the context and record system(s) that produced it.the process of creating a set of data representing an archival resource or component thereofDACS 2013, xviDescription is the creation of an accurate representation of the archival material by the process of capturing, collating, analyzing, and organizing information that serves to identify archival material and to explain the context and records systems that produced it, as well as the results of these processes.
Descriptions are frequently expressed in finding aids and bibliographic records. They are used for discovery and management of archival resources. Descriptions often detail physical characteristics, informational content, and functional purpose. The process of describing archival resources can include analyzing, organizing, and recording details about the formal elements of a record or collection of records, such as creator, title, dates, extent, and contents, to facilitate the work’s identification, management, and understanding.