n.a set of letters and/or numbers that uniquely identifies an archival collection or its componentsWilliams 1990, 85Part of the work of every archivist will, sooner or later, involve the issuing and application of reference codes for the documents being processed. It has been taken, somewhat for granted perhaps, that these combinations of characters, alphabetic or numeric, will provide a reference system for individual documents or bundles in an archive.Green 1990, 144In terms of data management, a conventional archive management system uses reference codes to provide links between different parts of the system. The reference codes on an index card, for example, provide pointers from the index term to various entries on the descriptive lists. A reference code on a descriptive list is the key or identifier by which the user finds then entry to which the index points. . . . ¶ The reference code on a descriptive list also commonly serves as a link between different levels of description.Cook 1990, 135For example, a description that is part of a location index need only contain such items as reference code, a note of the bulk of the unit, and its physical form (boxes, volumes, etc.).Reid 1992, 94The main criterion for the new classification scheme was that it had to provide a permanent reference code which would act as both the location reference and the call number, and would ensure that records, once placed on a shelf, need never be reorganized again.Janes 2012a, 127Although extracted maps still belong intellectually to their “parent” files, series, and departments, the practicalities of storing extracted maps and producing them to the reading rooms require that a separate reference code be given to an extract. Originally, reference codes for extracted maps were simply storage locations, but over the decades they came to be treated as the official reference codes for all purposes, including citation.DACS 2019, 10Record a reference code that consists of a local identifier, a repository identifier, and a country identifier in accordance with the following rules.Barrett 2022Reference code ¶ The unique identifier for a given item or group of items. This code is usually required when accessing archival materials on-site in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room.Northern BC Archives 2023Reference code: Like a call number for a library book, you will need to know this code to access archival materials but, unlike a call number, you will also need it in your citation.
A reference code may be alphanumeric or numeric and primarily aids in the retrieval of the material. The reference code is a required element of both ISAD(G) and DACS. The term call number has sometimes been used synonymously with reference code, but reference code is more of a broader term.