Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

Graphic Materials guidelines spreadsheet


This document was created in response to the 2013 publication of DCRM(G). Its purpose is to help Houghton catalogers when they work with graphic material, whether it is a single printed item, a single original piece of artwork, or a collection of any sort.

The group compared and analyzed:

  • DCRM(G) [2013]
  • DCRM(B) [2007]
  • DCRM(MSS) [2014 pre-comment copy]
  • DACS(2) [2013]
  • RDA [July 2014]


We created a spreadsheet using MARC fields as a tool to structure our examination of each element of a hypothetical thorough description of a graphic or graphic collection. In the final column of the spreadsheet we recorded miscellaneous observations and recommendations. We were loath to rewrite this spreadsheet in narrative form and instead recommend catalogers use it in combination with the following guidelines to educate their approach.

The following is not a set of rules – this document provides guidance in approaching the material at hand. It is ultimately up to the cataloger to choose which set of cataloging rules or combination of rules to employ. Keep in mind that coding an 040 means that the rules of that standard need be applied universally.§ The only exception to this is that while DCRM(G) requires a GMD (subfield |h [graphic] in the MARC title field), according to RBMS-L, this can be replaced with judicious use of 3XX fields. Coding a record as DACS allows for some flexibility in description and coding, as DACS recognizes the vagaries of local decision-making based on an institution’s needs, history, and systems and is therefore less proscriptive. However, if a cataloger chooses to follow the guidelines below that align to DACS, keep in mind that the entire record needs to be DACS-compliant.

-- The Graphics Cataloging Committee (aka Andrea, Karen, and Susan W.)

§ This includes entering a 007 in the holdings record if using DCRM(G) (positions 00, 01, and 02; if applicable 04 and, optionally 05)


Minimum descriptive requirements


The following elements should be included in any MARC record (collection or item) and at least at the collection-level description of a finding aid (though recommended for item-level in long-form graphic material description). For more specific information about where these elements should be entered see the Graphics spreadsheet or the appropriate standard.



If a title can be discerned from the piece (e.g. printed with image, manuscript note on front or back, printed title on enclosure, etc.), transcribe the title. If there is no discernable title, supply a title according to the standard applied (see the Graphics Material spreadsheet for guidance). Cite the source of the title in a note, whether transcribed or supplied. Do not bracket a supplied title unless using DCRM(G) or DCRM(B) as the control standard for the record.



Required, if known. Use a relator term, subfield |e in MARC, where possible to identify the role of the entity described (e.g. engraver, collector, artist, distributer, etc.).

Material type/format


Description of material type/format must be included but where it is included varies by standard.

A general format type should always be given for the material. For this, we recommend the list in DCRM(G) 5B2.1: drawing(s), painting(s), photograph(s), print(s), and, less recommended, item(s) and picture(s). To this list should be added local Houghton material designations, such as poster(s), scrapbook(s), etc. This general format type might be entered in one or more of several fields, depending on the type of record being created and standard being used, including the 300 |a for materials cataloged under the DCRM standards, 245 |k for single-items cataloged under DACS, as part of a devised title for a collection catalogued under DACS, tagged as <format> in a finding aid, etc.


More specific material description or process information can be entered into fields such as the 300 |b, 5xx note fields (remember to include the appropriate 655), and in the <format> or note fields in a finding aid.


Content, material, and carrier type fields should be included if creating an RDA record. These do not eliminate the requirement of including at least a general material description elsewhere in the record.



Required if discernable. Record as precisely as possible. The date or an approximation may come from secondary sources. Cite the source of the date if it is not on the piece.


The date might be entered in one or more of several fields, depending on the type of record being created and standard being used, including the 264 |c for DCRM(B/G) and RDA records, the 245 |f for DACS MARC records, and various date tags in a finding aid.



Typically a count of the item(s) and often a measurement of the piece or housing.


When recording the number of loose items cataloged, give a count of the number of items followed by a general format type (e.g. 12 prints, 14 photographs, etc.), we recommend those listed in DCRM(G) 5B2.1 and any Houghton additions to the list (see Material Type above). Extent may be entered as a count of pages or leaves of a bound volume or linear feet and/or boxes for collections materials. This accounting of material might be entered in one or more of several fields, depending on the type of record being created and standard being used, including the 300 |a, a 5xx note, and an extent tag in a finding aid.


In some cases the dimensions of the item or items should be recorded. Record dimensions in at least a single direction, measured in centimeters (or millimeters if any measurement is under 10 cm). Include both sheet size and image size/plate, or sheet size, plate size, and image size where appropriate. Dimensions might be entered in one or more of several fields, depending on the type of record being created and standard being used, including the 300 |c, a 5xx note, and a note field in a finding aid.


In the case of collections, rather than dimensions or physical accounting of items, extent is recorded in linear feet and a count of boxes or other housing. In a MARC record these are both entered in 300 |a and in a finding aid they are placed in the appropriate tag in the front matter.


A note about notes and subject headings


In addition to the minimal descriptive elements of title, creator, date, format, and extent we recommend judicious use of notes, subject headings, and form/genre headings. The Graphics spreadsheet includes extensive entries for types of information entered in MARC 5xx notes. Those most often used in graphics cataloging will be 500, 520, and 545, as well as the required 524 if you are cataloging using the DACS standard. A simplistic view of the differences between the types of information entered in the 500 and 520 note fields is to think of 500 as a physical description, one from which is culled 655 genre/form entries, and 520 is an intellectual description, from which one creates 650 subject entries. Sometimes a description will include both of these elements, but if it is mostly subject-oriented (rather than physical) it is likely a 520 note.

  • No labels