[Archivesspace_Users_Group] Managing Unique Top Containers

Bowers, Kate A. kate_bowers at harvard.edu
Tue Aug 1 11:44:32 EDT 2023

We have an enormous number of legacy collections where the container numbering has similar issues. Fortunately (or because of this) we are not trying to use AS as our system of record for locations or container management.

The best solution we found with ArchivesSpace is to repeat the entire text of the container identifier in the “indicator” field of the top container. For example:

  *   HUGFP 26.10 Box 1
     *   HUGFP 26 being the collection identifier, .10 being the series identifier, and Box 1 being the container number
  *   HUGFP 111.75 p Box 1
     *   (HUGFP 111 being the collection number, .75 being the series identifier, p being the container prefix, and Box 1 being the container number

This is, at least, accurate. It does make the public display weird in some places though.

This is a legacy practice—we no longer assign series or sous-fonds  numbers to portions of fonds or portions of collections that will be described in a single finding aid. For many institutional records, the description is at the sous-fonds or series level.  We will continue to have the problem with legacy collections, however.


From: archivesspace_users_group-bounces at lyralists.lyrasis.org <archivesspace_users_group-bounces at lyralists.lyrasis.org> On Behalf Of Herbert Dittersdorf
Sent: Tuesday, August 1, 2023 11:23 AM
To: archivesspace_users_group at lyralists.lyrasis.org
Subject: [Archivesspace_Users_Group] Managing Unique Top Containers

Hello ArchiveSpace Community,

I was hoping to crowdsource a little wisdom about Top Containers and how you all manage them.

I am retooling the finding aid for the University of Maine's William S. Cohen Papers collection--a very large set of boxes (our largest). The collection contains multiple record groups, series, sub series, and sub-subseries. Boxes and files have been associated with Top Containers successfully; however, the Top Container designations tend to be generic (e.g. "Box 1," "Box 2," "Box 3"...). This fact creates a problem: each "Box 1," "Box 2," "Box 3"... Top Container is linked with records from disparate series and subseries.

For example, the following two folder titles are both linked under the same "Box 1" Top Container:

[cid:image001.png at 01D9C46C.3980BA70]
One file comes from subseries, 2.1.5 Membership Files. The other file comes from the subseries, 3.4.4 Mailings.

Obviously the details do not matter here. I am simply wondering how others deal with similar problems. Generally: Is there a way to create unique top container instances with identical titles? Or do you all typically embed additional information in the "Top Container" title?

In the case of the example: Can I create two unique "Box 1" instances (one for the 2.1.5 subseries and the other for the 3.4.4 subseries) by editing the metadata for that Top Container in some way? Or is creating a longer "Top Container" title (something like, "2.1.5 Box 1") the only way to solve this problem?

I am looking for an elegant way of solving this issue without creating long Top Container titles but could not find a way to do so using the Help Center. Even knowing, for sure, that I have to create longer titles would be very helpful.

Thank you so much and I apologize for clogging all of your inboxes with my question!

Herbie Dittersdorf
Herbert Matthew Dittersdorf, M.S.I.
Archivist, William S. Cohen Papers
Special Collections Department
5729 Fogler Library
Orono, ME 04469-5729

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