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General guidelines

Listing is the process of creating an inventory of the contents of a collection. Collections may be listed at the point of accession and/or at the point of processing. Usually lists created at the point of accession are later updated and augmented at the point of processing.  Most of the time you will be listing the titles of files but you will also list in your inventory unfoldered items such as individual pieces of audio-visual media, electronic media, or items such as artifacts. 

Files vs. folders: the Center's approach to description privileges the intellectual over the physical; therefore we think of a file as a small group of items that has a title, which may be physically housed in one or more folders. The units you are listing are either files (groups of more than one item) or items (single items). Often one file happens to be housed in one folder (ex: Folder 01 Correspondence 1812), but a file may also span multiple folders (ex: Folder 01-03 Correspondence 1812) and in such cases should be entered as a single row in the listing template.  Due to ArchivesSpace constraints, we cannot create box spans the way we create folder spans, so if an intellectual file spans multiple boxes it should be represented with separate rows in the template (ex: Box 01 Folder 89-92 Correspondence 1812 / Box 02 Folder 01-02 Correspondence 1812.) 

Batch listing: In cases where separately listing individual folders does little to enhance access, consider "batch listing" groups of folders. For example, if a box contains collected reprints from 1960-1967, and the individual folder titles don't provide additional meaningful information about the nature or context of the reprints (the titles are simply "reprints," "articles," etc), consider listing these as a single intellectual group (Box 02, Folders 01-35 Collected articles and reprints). Remember that the box is the unit that public services will retrieve for a patron request, so consider whether a file-level inventory has a significant impact on the ability of users or public services to navigate or understand the contents of that box. Provide a brief but descriptive title for the folder group, and list the range of covered dates in the Begin Date and End Date columns.  In the Folder Scope and Content Notes column, provide a description of the folders' contents, the date range, information about the arrangement of the folders, and any restrictions that apply to the folders.  Be sure to list the range of folder numbers in the Folder Numbers column. If you do choose to batch-list a group of folders, you should provide an explanation of the decision in the processing note for the relevant series or sub-series in the finding aid. We also sometimes rely on batch listing to obscure sensitive information appearing in the file titles themselves; see the Identifying Restricted Records section for more information. 

Metrics tracking:  If you have been asked to log your hours using the MD2011 database, box and folder listing is tracked in the following ways:
  • Use “refoldering” to track the amount of time it takes to put originals in to new folders and to label those folders.
  • Use “folder listing” to track the amount of time it takes to data enter the folder titles in the spreadsheet.

Listing Template Field Guide

Listing template:   BoxFolderList_Template_Master.xls

Some instructions have been split into two categories: for listing at the point of accession (orange) and listing at the point of processing (blue). These color codes have been chosen to match the column/field headers in the Box and Folder Listing spreadsheet template. For quick reference, accessioning listers can focus on fields in orange. Processors should take all fields into account.

Sort ID

All categories: Don't edit unless you need to add additional IDs. This column is used to maintain the order in which items are entered (i.e., if public services later sorts the spreadsheet by date or title, they can restore the original order of rows by sorting on the Sort ID column. The column is populated up to ID #1000 by default; if your list has more than a thousand entries, you must add more to this column by clicking the last cell (#1000) and dragging down to "fill." Likewise, if you insert a new row anywhere in the spreadsheet, you should copy down a new set of IDs from that point on to fill in the missing ID and update the ones that follow.


All categories: Barcode numbers should be assigned when accessioning or processing is complete. For additional instructions, please see HD & Barcoding.

Accession Number

Accessioning-levelThe accession number is the fiscal year of accession followed by a three digit number indicating which number accession it was for the year. For example, 2007-012 indicates that this was the twelfth archival accession for fiscal year 2007. Remember to enter the accession number for every folder so that the spreadsheet sorts correctly if combined with another series from the same office of origin.

 Processing-level:  Skip.

Schedule Number (archives-only)

All categories: Use only if folder listing an archival series. The Records Manager will assign this number.

Office of Origin number (archives-only)

All categories: Use only if folder listing an archival series. The Records Manager will assign this number. (For example: M-DE01) 

Full Name of Office of Origin for Records (archives-only)

All categories: Use only if folder listing an archival series. The Records Manager will determine/assign the official name of the office of origin. (For example: Harvard Medical School. Office of the Dean)

Series, Subseries, and Sub-subseries

Accessioning-level: If listing an archival series, the Records Manager will provide the series number to be entered in this field. Remember to enter the series name or number for each row so that the spreadsheet sorts correctly.  If listing a manuscript collection, skip this field unless the Accessions Archivist has provided definitive series names to be recorded.

Processing-level:  Remember to enter the series number or name for each row so that the spreadsheet sorts correctly. You may wish to create a separate Excel sheet for each series in your collection.

Level of description

Accessioning-level:  Skip. 

Processing-level: Enter  file if the unit you're describing is an intellectual group of items (a folder, multiple folders with the same title, a group of tapes with the same title, etc), enter item if the unit you're describing is a single item (one object, one photograph, one tape, etc). [Draft policy for e-media:] If you are listing a piece of electronic media (a floppy disk, a usb drive, etc), use file, because you're describing more than one intellectual item - you're describing the contents of the media. The media itself is just a physical carrier. This assumes there is more than one file/document on the piece of e-media. If there is only one file/document on the e-media, such as one Word doc or one spreadsheet, use item. 

Box type

Accessioning-level:  Skip.

 Processing-level: Use either the term Box or the term Oversized-box depending on the size of the box you're describing. [need to define? ]

Box Number

General guidance (for everyone): You may not list a range of boxes, for example, if you have a set of reprints described as a group (ie., entered as one row) that spans multiple boxes, say boxes 4 and 5, you may not enter 4-5 in the Box Number cell. You must split the reprints entry into two separate rows, one entered as Box 4 and the other as Box 5. For items stored in oversized flat file drawers, do NOT record a box or folder number, record their location in the Physical Location field (see below).

Accessioning-level: Enter the box number for every row; zeros should be entered in front of single-digit box numbers (use 01, not 1) to ensure proper sorting. Use two leading zeros (001) instead of one if you know there will be 100 boxes or more.

Processing-level: Box numbers are assigned and listed/updated after physical arrangement is complete. Enter the box number for every row; zeros should be entered in front of single-digit box numbers (use 01, not 1) to ensure proper sorting. Use two leading zeros (001) instead of one if you know there are 100 boxes or more.

Folder Number

General guidance (for everyone)The Center does not number folders “across” boxes/collections. Every box starts with Folder “01.” For items stored in oversized flat file drawers, do NOT record a box or folder number, record their location in the Physical Location field (see below).
If the unit you're listing is not housed in a folder (an object, a piece of media, etc), leave this field blank. 
Folder ranges: Unlike box numbers, you may list a folder range associated with an intellectual file that spans multiple folders. For example, if you have three folders with the same title "Correspondence, A-C" in folders 6-8, you don't need to list these out in individual rows, you can enter this as a single row with a single title and enter "06-08" in the Folder Number cell (see the instructions for the Title field below for additional instructions).

Accessioning-level: Though you are NOT writing folder numbers on physical folders, enter sequential folder numbers here, following the general guidance above. Remember that in cases where an intellectual file (one title) spans multiple physical folders, enter this as a single row in the spreadsheet with a folder number range (ex: 07-11) in the Folder Number column, rather than entering them as multiple rows.

Processing-level: Folder numbers are assigned and listed/updated after physical arrangement is complete. Include two leading zeros (001) instead of one if there are 100 or more folders in a particular box.  



General guidance (everyone should follow) Transcribe the title as it appears on the folder or item (such as the label on an audiocassette). If the folder has no title to transcribe, review the folder contents and devise a brief but descriptive title in square brackets (the title should appear in square brackets on the physical folder as well). Devised titles should reflect the type of records found in the folder and/or the predominant topic/event/person covered; the Folder title qualifiers list below may provide helpful terms for forming devised titles. 

Data entry conventions

    • Aside from formal titles and proper nouns, only capitalize the first letter of a title. 
    • Do not include a period at the end of a title.
    • Do not use “&”, always write out “and” even when & appears in the original folder title (one exception: corporate body names)
    • Do not use abbreviations, unless they are prefixes and suffixes for personal names (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Sr., Jr.):
      • "circa” not “ca.”
      • “miscellaneous” not “misc.”
    • Use the full form of material formats:
      • “photographs” not “photos”
      • “advertisements” not “ads”
      • “newspaper clippings” not “newsclippings”
    • Spell out full forms of terms that are originally written in shorthand when the full term is obvious, and correct obvious spelling errors from original folder titles:
      • "Global health" not "Global hlth"
      • "Meeting" not "Mtg"

Files that span multiple folders: In cases where a single file (an intellectual grouping with one title) spans multiple folders (physical housing), this may be entered as a single entry/row with a folder range listed in the Folder Number field and a single title, as opposed to listing each physical folder as a separate row and indicating "(1 of 3)...(2 of 3)", etc in each Title. 

For example:
            Folder      Title
do:       04-05        Grant application files

don't:    04             Grant application files (1 of 2)
             05             Grant application files (2 of 2)

Handling hanging file folders: If a labelled folder or group of folders is housed inside a hanging file-folder that has its own label, enter the hanging file title first, and enter the individual folder titles second following a colon. For instance, if you have a hanging file with the label "Conferences" and it contains two folders labeled "American Medical Association" and "American Academy of Pediatrics" you should list:

Conferences: American Medical Association
Conferences: American Academy of Pediatrics

Accessioning-level: Enter the title of the file or item as it appears on the original following the general guidance above. If a date or date span is part of the original folder title, record it in the title field as part of the title transcription.

For loose, labeled objects and media, transcribe the original titles and dates from the labels individually as you would for folders (you will not enter folder numbers for these items but for e-media you should enter the Electronic Media number in the appropriate field), and include a title qualifier in square brackets indicating the media type:[

Box 12     Powerpoints, 2012 [floppy disk]
Box 12     CVs and desktop backups  [USB drive]

For loose, unlabeled objects and media, list each type of media separately with the total number of each media type in parentheses in the Title field. For example, if Box 12 contains 3 floppy disks and 4 audio cassettes, you would use two rows to enter:

Box 12     Unlabeled floppy disks (3)

Box 12     Unlabeled audio cassettes (4)

If a folder contains a piece of media, transcribe the folder title as you would normally and indicate the presence of media in the Scope and Content field. 

Processing-level: Follow the additional conventions below in addition to the general guidance above. Items and files should be listed in their intellectual arrangement, regardless of where they are stored physically (i.e, in oversized containers or otherwise physically stored separately or out of order). If a folder title does not adequately convey the folder contents, consider clarifying by either adding a folder title qualifier or adding a scope and content note (more on both below).

If the contents of the folder are undated, indicate that at the end of the title followed by a comma (rather than writing undated in the Date column). Example:

    • Correspondence, undated

Acronyms/initialisms:  When recording folder titles, enter the full form of initialized names, abbreviations, and acronyms in the the title using [square brackets] following the abbreviation *or* in the scope and contents note if further description/explanation is needed. Only do this if you are certain about the meaning of the abbreviation, and be sure to apply the note consistently to all files employing that abbreviation. You may use find-and-replace to append spelled out terms but it's recommended to do so manually/one-by-one rather than use "replace all."  You do not need to write out the full term on the physical folder. 

    • Ex: APA [American Pediatric Association] meeting

Folder title qualifiers:  When appropriate, you may append content type qualifiers to folder titles. Qualifiers are useful to users in that they offer clues to the content of folders with “cryptic” titles. Please see the Folder Title Qualifiers list below for a list of approved qualifiers and how to apply them.  DO NOT write out appended qualifiers on the physical folders.

[+listing electronic records guidance]

Redacting sensitive information: Folder titles containing restricted information should be redacted in the box and folder list ONLY.  Replace the restricted information in the folder title with "[name redacted]" (or similar statement), and write out the redacted information in the Redacted Name column of the box and folder listing spreadsheet (ex. "Redacted name: 'John Smith'."). See the Identifying Restricted Records section for more information. 

Qualifying Date Term

Accessioning-level: If the original folder title says “c.” or “ca.” or “around,” enter "circa" here, otherwise, leave blank.

 Processing-levelUse circa to indicate an approximate date and probably to indicate that you're not certain about a date but you have enough information to make a guess. 

Start Date & End Dates

Accessioning-level: If date information is provided on the physical folder, record the year(s) in the Start and End Year column as appropriate (leaving End Year blank if none is provided). If Month and Day information is provided, record it in the Month DD field in that format (ex: April 02). If no date information is provided on the folderbriefly review folder contents and record a Start and End year (leaving the End Year field blank if it is the same as the Start Year). If the folder and folder contents are undated, leave the date fields blank (do not write "undated"). 

 Processing-level: Accurate date ranges should be recorded during processing, this may require briefly reviewing folder contents to determine an accurate date range. Enter the start year and end year in the appropriate columns, and if appropriate, enter month and day information in the corresponding columns in DACS format: Month DD (see examples below). 

If the contents of the folder are undated, try to estimate a date or date range and use "circa" or "probably" in the Qualifying Date Term field. If no estimated date can be determined, write "undated" in the Title field following a comma and a space, and leave the Date fields blank.Do not use square brackets, question marks, or "s" (1980s) to indicate uncertainty or approximation; only use qualifying date terms to indicate uncertainty. ONLY a 4-digit year may be entered in the Start/End year fields because those years are used to generate normalized year ranges in the EAD.

Proper data entry for the following dates is listed in the table below:


September 1863

March 12-19th 1908

Start Year        
Start Month DD         End Year    End Month DD











 March 12




Scope and Content Note

Accessioning-level:  Use to indicate the presence of electronic media or audio-visual items within a folder, i.e., "Folder contains 2 compact discs."

 Processing-level: Processing archivists may, at their discretion, create file-level notes describing the scope and contents of the file. The purpose of creating folder-level scope and contents notes is to:

      • Clarify the contents of a file with an ambiguous title if it cannot be adequately clarified with a folder modifier.
      • Indicate if something is missing from the folder
      • Indicate the presence of something that a researcher would otherwise never be able to figure out was in the folder (such as information related to a particular research study or a letter from a famous individual)

Processing archivists should remember that scope and content notes are not to be used to impart value judgments, that is, to imply that the contents of a particular folder is “more important” or of “higher research value” than that of another folder.All folder-level scope and content notes are published in the finding aid. Therefore, please make sure to:

    • Format notes in complete sentences.
    • Capitalize the first letter of sentences and use appropriate punctuation.
    • Write out numbers in notes field less than 100 (“three” not “3”).
    • Write out dates in DACS format: 1959 December 11, not 12/11/59 or Dec. 11, 1959.
    • Consistently provide the full name of organizations, individuals, etc. that are abbreviated in folder titles for all folders employing known or determined (from the folder contents) abbreviations.

Restriction Statement

Accessioning-level: Skip unless otherwise instructed.

Processing-level: Assess whether materials in a particular folder should be restricted. See Identifying Restricted Records for guidance. List one or more of the following statements as appropriate (may substitute "Audio cassette", "Electronic file," or other unit terms for "File" as needed):

File contains restricted Harvard University records.

File contains restricted student [records or information].

File contains restricted personnel [records or information].File contains restricted [patient or medical or health] [records or information].File contains restricted [psychiatric or mental health] [records or information].

File contains restricted organizational records.

File contains restricted government records.

File contains restricted personally identifying information.

File contains restricted Harvard University affiliate records.

Access restriction

Accessioning-level: Skip unless otherwise instructed.

 Processing-level: Determine the restriction period based on the type of restricted information present (typically 50 or 80 years, see Identifying Restricted Records for more information). Calculate the end of the restriction period for a folder using the latest recorded date in that folder. Restrictions for the folder will be lifted once all items in that folder are no longer restricted.  For help determining whether something is a university record, consult with the Collections Services Archivist or the Records Manager. 

Redacted name

Accessioning-level: Skip unless otherwise instructed.

 Processing-level: List here any names you have redacted from the folder title in indirect order (i.e., Holmes, Oliver Wendell). This data should not be exported into the finding aid, but should be saved as part of the folder list in the collection's Description folder on the N drive. For more information on redacting, please see the above "Redacting Sensitive Information" section, under the instructions for the Title column.

Physical location

All categories: Use to record the location of items stored in a flat file drawer or other physical locations when not housed in an identifiable box or folder.Example: Flat file cabinet 03, drawer 01 

Electronic Media and WPC numbers

Accessioning-level: If you are logging Electronic Media as part of accessioning/listing, enter Electronic Media numbers here in the following format: Electronic Media ####. You may list ranges of numbers if applicable for example: Electronic Media #### - ####.

Processing-level: Use to note internally assigned numbers or identifiers such as Weissman Preservation Center numbers (WPC####) and Electronic Media numbers (Electronic Media ####), etc. You may list number ranges if applicable.

Internal Notes: General

Accessioning-level: Skip.

 Processing-level: Record information that is not for public consumption, including notes that may benefit Public Services. This includes:

    • Whether something from a folder was discarded
    • Whether something is too fragile for patron use
    • Processing notes for the purpose of developing scope and content notes and collection description or to record outlier dates to return to for markup
    • Whether something in the folder requires conservation
    • An explanation for why something is flagged in a box    

Internal Notes: Items of Interest

Accessioning-level: Skip.

 Processing-level: Use field to flag visually interesting items for digitization, exhibits, blog posts, etc. Provide a brief description of the item of note in the folder for future scanning or use.


Folder title qualifiers

The following qualifiers may be appended to the end of folder titles in order to clarify contents, per box and folder level instructions in section IV.2. Please enclose qualifiers in brackets.




[administrative files]

Use for records created to facilitate the operations and management of a unit, but which do not directly relate to programs that are mission-related.  Records include: meeting minutes, policy and procedure development documents; planning, proposal and special project records (non-research-related); program establishment documents; development and review records; directives; reports; general staff meeting records; background subject resource and reference materials; working papers; and correspondence and memoranda.



Use for "intra- institutional relations" and "intra-departmental relations" administrative records. Make note of entities in Scope and Content note field. For research-related project records, use: [research records].


Restrict administrative records generated by Harvard Medical School as per schedule (50 years from the date of creation). Restrict other materials per donor agreement.

[administrative and organizational records]

Use for records that combine records from both categories.





Use for folders that predominantly contain newspaper and/or magazine clippings.





Use for folders that predominantly contain correspondence.




[employee personnel records]

Use for records that document individual employee work histories. Records include: applications; vitae; appointment forms; job descriptions; documentation of background screening; personnel actions; performance evaluations; professional development records; awards; commendations; recommendations; reprimands; and notices of disciplinary action.



Employee files are highly confidential, especially as they relate to job performance, personnel actions, reprimands, and disciplinary action. If found in Harvard University records, restrict for 80 years..



[fellows records]

Use for records that address fellows in a general way. May include orientation materials, handouts, name lists, seminar lists, lecture notes.



If a fellow is named, but contents are project/research related, use: [research records].


Restrict if an HMS file that contains employee personnel for the Fellow that is confidential.

[lectures and presentations]

Use for presentations and speeches in manuscript, typescript, or outline form. May include course lectures.




[organizational records]

Use for Board of Directors records when records creator served as a member. Records chronicle executive administration, and include: policy and procedure development documents; planning and proposal records; program establishment; development and review records; directives; reports; meeting minutes; background subject resource and reference materials; working papers; related correspondence and memoranda.





[patient records]

Use for medical records pertaining to a single patient or a group of patients.




Restrict for 80 years from the date of creation

[research records]

Use for research data, protocols, and patient summarized data based on, but not usually including, individual patient medical records.  Include product development records stemming from the results of research and project records. May include reference materials related to research topics.




Restrict for 80 years from the date of creation if research is conducted on human subjects. In internal notes field, indicate whether clinical research   (human patient) OR laboratory research (animal research).

[subject resource files]

This descriptor is for files containing background materials on topics related to office mission and functions. Records include articles, clippings, submissions, discussion notes, portfolios and profiles, ratings and surveys, questionnaires, industry reports, and related correspondence. Use for magazines, professional journals, and newspapers, or articles copied or removed from these publications, when collected and filed by topic. Files may include monographs, reprints, product literature, and related correspondence specific to the acquisition of the reference material.





Use for files primarily containing pieces/examples of writings of the collection's creator and when the file is not part of a separate series, such as "Writings" or "Professional Writings." Use also for draft typescript(s) or manuscript(s), including research papers based on lab/clinical data and typescripts or manuscripts for monographs.


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