3. RAD Elements (Table of Contents)

3.1. What is an Element? (Table of Contents)


RAD descriptions are composed of various elements, each containing very specific sorts of information about the records and the entity that created them, listed in a specific order. While RAD allows some flexibility in the order of presentation of elements, we suggest that for the sake of clarity, consistency and ease of use they be ordered exactly as shown in this guide and in the RAD manual.

RAD itself does not require that data be presented in a certain way. However, we suggest that there are two basic styles of presentation for hard-copy finding aids: a formal presentation with each element labelled and presented as a list (similar to the way an entry on a database is listed) or an informal presentation in which all elements are separated by a ". -- " (or "full stop, space-dash-space", in RAD terminology). Labelling each element will remove any possibility of confusion among users who are not familiar with archival finding aids. Examples of both formats can be found throughout this Guide.

Regardless of the form that is used, for the sake of clarity we suggest that the various Note elements should always be labelled and the Administrative History/Biographical Sketch, Custodial History, and Scope and Content, while not necessarily labelled should be listed as separate paragraphs.


3.2. Basic RAD (Table of Contents)

At the fonds level, in its simplest and most common form, a RAD description consists of five elements: Title, Dates, Extent, Administrative History/Biographical Sketch, and Scope and Content. Six other elements should also be considered for a basic RAD description: Custodial history, Source of supplied title note, Physical description note, Arrangement note, Restrictions, and Accruals. While these are not optional, they will not always be necessary, either. The five basic elements have been marked with an asterisk (*) in the following list. To assist the reader a reference to the appropriate section of RAD Chapter 1 ("General Rules for Description") has been added in brackets.[2] Sous-fonds, series and sub-series descriptions will be very similar to fonds-level description, however file and particularly item-level descriptions include some elements (eg., Publisher's Series, Edition) which are not usually found anywhere else. In this guide we are concerned principally with descriptions at series-level and above.

At these levels of description record information relating to:

Title* (Rule 1.1) (Table of Contents)

There are two kinds of titles: formal, and supplied. If the material being described already has a formal title, use that, copying it word-for-word. Formal titles seldom exist at the fonds and series level. To be a formal title it must be on or in every single item in the unit. Thus formal titles are usually only found at the item level and are most common with non-textual records. If there is no formal title, supply one based on the contents of the fonds, sous-fonds or series. The supplied title is composed of a name element (usually the creating individual, family or organization) and a word or phrase that gives the nature of the archival unit. For fonds, use the name of the creating entity plus the word "fonds", as in "City of North Battleford fonds", "Joe Smith fonds" or "Jones Family fonds", and similarly for sous-fonds. At series and sub-series level, identify the contents of the unit and type of records, eg., "Bishop's Correspondence" or "Executive Committee Minutes." If there is a supplied title the description should include a "Source of supplied title" note (see below).

RAD also mentions parallel titles and statements of responsibility these are not applicable to series- and fonds- level descriptions. Only formal titles have parallel titles, and statements of responsibility are only found at the item-level.

Optionally, the title may include the "General Material Designation", or GMD (Rule 1.1C). The GMD tells what class of record material is most common to the unit being described. Although it is only an optional rule, the GMD is particularly useful for describing special media and is becoming quite commonly used. Rule 1.1C1 gives the list of authorized GMD's, which are put in square brackets - [ ]- immediately after the title, eg., "Title: John Smith fonds [textual]". If the option to give the GMD is chosen it should be used at each level of description unless it is identical to that given in a higher level description.

Dates:* (Rule 1.4) (Table of Contents)

Dates are the oldest and youngest dates of material in the unit being described and can be presented in several ways depending on the material. If the volume of material is evenly spread between the oldest and youngest dates, the format is:

Dates: 1905-1987.

If a majority of the records come from a certain period make a note of the "predominant" dates, as in:

Dates: 1905-1987 ; predominant 1932-1987.

If there are only one or two records outside the predominant date range, list them individually:

Dates: 1905, 1932-1987.

If there is a long gap between two distinct sets of date ranges list them like this:

Dates: 1905-1932 ; 1944-1987

Sometimes exact dates will not be known. Although it is common practice to indicate this by writing "n.d." ("no date") in cases like this it is preferable to estimate probable or uncertain dates. RAD gives a variety of conventions for recording probable and uncertain dates which are worth examining (Rule 1.4B5). The conventions which will be most commonly used for estimating dates are:

Probable date: [1867?]

Approximate date: [ca. 1975]

Decade certain: [197-]

Probable decade: [197-?]

The Date element of a RAD description could look something like this:

Dates: 1895, 1910-1921, 1947 - [197-?] ; predominant 1951-1965.

19 times out of 20, however, it will look like this:

Dates: 1895-1975

Extent* (Rule 1.5) (Table of Contents)

The Extent element is part of the physical description area, which also includes "other physical details", "dimensions" and (at the item level) "accompanying material". Extent is the most important of the three elements and the only one that will usually be used when describing textual records. It is measured in metres or centimetres for textual records and either as exact or estimated numbers for photographs, maps, etc. The Extent element should say how many units there are and of what, eg.:

Extent: 50 m. of textual records.
Extent: ca. 200 photographs.

When listing more than one type of record in the same element, either separate each one with a ". --". or start a new paragraph for each.

Extent: 4 maps. -- 2 microfilm reels. -- 10 photographs.

Extent: 4 maps
2 microfilm reels
10 photographs

Depending on the records being described, the extent element and physical description area can become quite complex. However, since textual material is the most common record type in most archival institutions and is also the simplest to describe this will not usually be a problem. In any case, the degree of detail which is included in any description will always be an institutional decision.

Remember to give the extent of each class of records (photos, maps, textual, moving images, etc.) that is in the unit being described. If there are three or less (as in the above example) we suggest that you list them all in the manner shown. If there are more than three, list the most common one and add: "and other material" and use the Physical Description Note (Rule 1.8B9, located farther down in the description) to give complete details on the extent of the records:

Extent: 50 m. of textual records and other material

[....]

Physical Description: Series includes 50 m. of textual records, 50 photographs, 3 maps, 5 posters and 30 reels of microfilm.

RAD grants institutions the right to decide the maximum number of specific classes of material that will be described in this area without using the "and other material" notation (Rule 1.5A5).

Administrative History* (Rule 1.7B1) (Table of Contents)

This element will always be found in fonds and sous-fonds level descriptions. It is used to describe the structure and history of the organization that created the records. It will only be found at the series and sub-series levels if the records were created by a different organizational unit from that described at the fonds level. Care should be exercised not to confuse series with sous-fonds (which are defined as records created by an identifiable sub-unit of the organization). At each of these levels, provide information about the corporate body responsible for creating only those records being described. The reason for including an administrative history is to provide the user with an understanding of the context in which records were created. A good Administrative History should be concise, but may also include much of the information that the more casual researcher is seeking.

The following sub-elements should be included (as applicable). They can be lumped together as a narrative (in which case the order may be changed to facilitate the smooth flow of the text) or separated into distinct sub-elements which should be introduced by a standard introductory word or phrase. Most archivists use a narrative format for the Administrative History. Either way, include information that relates to these sub-elements:

1. Dates

When the organization was created and when (if) it ceased operations.

2. Mandate/sphere of functional responsibility

What it was responsible for, any legislation or other legal or policy documents from which it derived that authority, its activities and any significant changes in its authority or functions.

3. Predecessor and successor bodies

What organizations preceded it in carrying out its mandate/function and activities and what organizations succeeded it. If there were any amalgamations, name the entitities involved and summarize the amalgamation.

4. Administrative relationships

Show the relationship between the body and any higher bodies that have authority over it and any bodies that it controls. Describe any changes in the relationships.

5. Administrative structure

Describe the structure and organization of the body, including significant branches and divisions.

6. Names of the corporate body

Record any changes in the official name of the body and also any popular names by which it was known (eg., The "Saskatchewan Government Insurance Office" was commonly referred to as "SGIO" before it was shortened to "SGI"').

7. Names of chief officers

If this seems important, record the names of those persons acting as chief officers of the administrative unit being described.

8. Other information

Anything that doesn't fit within the above areas but seems important.

Biographical Sketch* (Rule 1.7B2) (Table of Contents)

This is an administrative history for people and families. It will always be found in fonds and sous-fonds level descriptions. It will only be found at the series and sub-series level if the persons who created the records are different from those described at the fonds level. It is used to describe the history and activities of the individual or family that created the records. As with the Administrative History, care must be taken not to confuse series with sous-fonds.

At each level in which it is being used, provide information relating only to the persons responsible for the records being described. The reason for including a Biographical Sketch is to provide the user with an understanding of the context in which records were created. A good Biographical Sketch is concise, yet may also include much of the information that the more casual researcher is seeking.

Again, at each level include only information that is specific to those who were responsible for the creation of the particular records being described. The following sub-elements should be included as applicable, either lumped together as a narrative (in which case the order may be changed to facilitate the smooth flow of the text) or separated into distinct sub-elements which should be introduced by a standard introductory word or phrase. Most archivists use a narrative format for the Biographical Sketch. Either way, include information that relates to these sub-elements:

1. Names

Full names, married names, aliases, nicknames; place and date of birth and death; marital data; and the names of children. Include information about the family origin.

2. Place of Residence

Where the family/individual lived and for how long.

3. Education

Give information about the formal education of the person(s) involved.

4. Occupation, Life and Activities

Information about:
1. the principal occupation(s) and career or life work of persons
2. the activities of families
3. any other activities important to an understanding of the life of the person or family
4. important relationships with other persons, families or organizations
5. offices held
6. significant accomplishments including honours, decorations and noteworthy public recognition.
5. Other Information

Anything else that seems significant but doesn't fit into the above areas.

Custodial History* (Rule 1.7C) (Table of Contents)

This element describes the history of the custody of the records after they left the custody of the creator. This element is included so that users can judge the records' authenticity and reliability. For example, non-current records that were maintained in a federal government records centre for 20 years and then transferred to the National Archives are much more likely to retain the characteristics of their creation and use - that is, be more authentic and reliable - than those that sat in someone's attic for 20 years and were then transferred to the National Archives. In this element include information relating to who had custody of the records and when they were transferred, as far as this can be discovered.

Be careful not to confuse this part with information given in the Administrative History/Biographical Sketch. Changes in custody resulting from administrative re-organizations, mergers, etc., are part of the Administrative History, not the Custodial History.

Scope and Content* (Rule 1.7D) (Table of Contents)

The "scope" and "content" are two separate things, despite being found in the same element. At the fonds (and sous-fonds) level, the "scope" gives a thumbnail sketch of the function or activities that generated the records, the period of time and the geographical area to which they pertain. For the "content" indicate the arrangement or organization of the unit being described and include a list of the units in the next lower level of description (ie., at the fonds level list the series, at the series level list the sub-series.) RAD does not mandate any particular style of presentation; however, we suggest that if sub-units are identified they should be laid out either as a numbered list or identified by name, whichever is most appropriate. Finally, summarize the principal documentary form if possible (eg., minutes, reports, correspondence, etc.).

At the series (and sub-series) level, the scope should include information about the specific activities generating the records, the time period and geographical area involved and any administrative or documentary procedures that explain how the series came into being. The content should include information about the internal structure of the series including arrangement, classification scheme and documentary forms of the records.

The scope and content must state the current level of description., eg., "Fonds consists of...," "Series comprises...," etc.

The RAD Manual includes a number of examples of different kinds of Scope and Content notes and further examples of RAD descriptions can be found at the end of this Guide.

Source of supplied title (Rule 1.8B2) (Table of Contents)

This element is required if a supplied title is being used (which will almost always be the case at the fonds, sous-fonds, and series level). Indicate the source of the title, usually the contents of the records themselves (eg., "Title based on contents of the series", or "Title based on provenance of the fonds").

Physical Description (Rule 1.8B9) (Table of Contents)

The Physical Description note is used to provide extra detail on the extent, physical characteristics and conversation requirements of records. Use this note to give details on extent of the records if the "and other material" notation has been used in the "Extent" element (see above).

Arrangement note (Rule 1.8B13) (Table of Contents)

Commonly used to note reorganisations of the material by the creator, changes in the classification scheme the creator used to file the records, arrangement by the archivist (if there was no discernible original order) or reconstitution of arrangement by the archivist (if original order had been disturbed), and any other aspect of arrangement considered important to an understanding of the records but that cannot be put in the Scope and Content.

Restrictions (Rule 1.8B16) (Table of Contents)

In this element note any restrictions that exist on access, reproduction and publication. If there are none, don't mention it.

Accruals (Rule 1.8B19) (Table of Contents)

Note in this element if the record unit is "open", that is, if more material belonging to it is expected to be transferred to the archives in the future. If no accruals are expected, leave it out.

Linking element (Table of Contents)

The rules for multi-level description require that descriptions be linked to those of the level above them. RAD does not say how this should be done, but some standardized method must be used to indicate where any given description is in the hierarchy and what its relationship is to other parts of the hierarchy. Downward linking is not necessary: the Scope and Content should include that information. However, an element must be included that indicates what series, sub-series, sous-fonds, or fonds the unit being described belongs to. We suggest that this element be placed above the Title element. Only show one level of linkage (for an example see Section 3.4).


The preceding elements are necessary for a basic RAD description. The Manual lists a large number of notes relating to various aspects of the description, such as "Availability of other formats", "Markings and stamps", "Immediate source of acquisition", etc., many of which are specific to certain classes of records (textual, graphic, cartographic, etc.), or to circumstances which might not be relevant to someone wishing to write a basic fonds- or series-level description. Anyone working with RAD should at least be aware of their existence so as to be able to make an informed decision about whether to include them or not.


3.3 A fonds-level description (Table of Contents)

The following is a (totally fictitious) fonds-level description of a group of records to be found in the equally fictitious Tugaske Community College Archives, presented as both a list with labelled elements and using the ". -- " notation. Note that in both cases the Administrative History is presented as a narrative.

Title: Tugaske Community College Girls Curling Club fonds.
Dates: 1947-1968.
Extent: 50 cm of textual records. -- 35 photographs. -- 2 posters.

Administrative History: The Tugaske Community College Girls Curling Club was started on September 15, 1947 and officially closed in June, 1968[3]. It was incorporated as an official school club at a meeting of the TCC Board of Governors on Sept 13, 1947, for the purpose of providing College girls with the opportunity to participate in curling at a competitive level.[4] The Boys' and Girls' clubs co-existed until September, 1968, when they merged to form the present-day TCC Mixed Curling League. [5] General oversight of the Club was provided by the staff advisor, who also acted as coach. The Club was a member of the South Saskatchewan Ladies Curling League[6] and was administered by an executive committee including a president, secretary/treasurer, and three members-at-large. A social committee and a tournaments committee also existed, which reported to the executive.[7] In 1957-1958 the club briefly changed its name to the Young Women's Curling Association (YWCA) before returning to the original name. It was also known colloquially as the "Tugaske Girls Curling Club", or just the "Girls Curling Club".[8] Mrs. Edda Smith, Girls' Phys-Ed teacher, was staff advisor and coach throughout the club's history.[9]

Custodial History:After the club formally ceased to exist in 1968 its records were transferred to the Tugaske Community College Physical Education Department, which donated them to the Archives in 1992.

Scope and Content:Fonds consists of correspondence, minutes, financial records, membership lists, competition statistics, newspaper clippings, photographs and advertising material (posters) pertaining to the organization of local curling tournaments and social events, travel to out-town-tournaments, fund-raising activities (bingos, bottle drives and bake sales, etc.) principally in the Tugaske-Tuxford-Moose Jaw area but also as far away as Eastend, Sask. Fonds is composed of the following series: Staff Advisor Records; Executive Committee Minutes; Financial Records; Membership Roll; General Correspondence; and Tournament Records.[10]


The following is the same fonds described using the ". --" style of presentation. In this format, elements are separated by the required punctuation, or, depending on the element, by starting a new paragraph. Elements can be identified by their content and location.

Tugaske Community College Girls Curling Club fonds. -- 1947-1968. -- 50 cm of textual records. -- 35 photographs. -- 2 posters.

The Tugaske Community College Girls Curling Club was started on September 15, 1947 and officially closed in June, 1968. It was incorporated as an official school club at a meeting of the TCC Board of Governors on Sept 13, 1947, for the purpose of providing College girls with the opportunity to participate in curling at a competitive level. The Boys' and Girls' clubs co-existed until September, 1968, when they merged to form the present-day TCC Mixed Curling League. General oversight of the Club was provided by the staff advisor, who also acted as coach. The Club was a member of the South Saskatchewan Ladies Curling League and was administered by an executive committee including a president, secretary/treasurer, and three members-at-large. A social committee and a tournaments committee also existed, which reported to the executive. In 1957-1958 the club briefly changed its name to the Young Women's Curling Association (YWCA) before returning to the original name. It was also known colloquially as the "Tugaske Girls Curling Club", or just the "Girls Curling Club". Mrs. Edda Smith, Girls' Phys-Ed teacher, was staff advisor and coach throughout the club's history.

After the club formally ceased to exist in 1968 its records were transferred to the Tugaske Community College Physical Education Department, which donated them to the Archives in 1992.

Fonds consists of correspondence, minutes, financial records, membership lists, competition statistics, newspaper clippings, photographs and advertising material (posters) pertaining to the organization of local curling tournaments and social events, travel to out-town-tournaments, fund-raising activities (bingos, bottle drives and bake sales, etc.) principally in the Tugaske-Tuxford-Moose Jaw area but also as far away as Eastend, Sask. Fonds is composed of the following series:

1. Staff Advisor Records
2. Executive Committee Minutes
3. Financial Records
4. Membership Roll
5. General Correspondence
6. Tournament Records


An archivist undertaking a full description of these records would use the same format to describe each of the series listed in the Scope and Content note, making sure that the information included was specific to that series. Beyond the series level one may describe sub-series, files and items. File and item level descriptions never have administrative histories, making them somewhat shorter. For the most part, we suggest that if file-level description of textual records seems appropriate, a list indicating titles and dates of the files should be sufficient.



3.4. A series level description (Table of Contents)

Fonds: Tugaske Community College Girls Curling Club fonds.

Series: Tournament Records.
Dates: 1948 - 1967 ; predominant 1955-1967.
Extent: 17 cm. of textual records. -- 30 photographs. -- 2 posters.


Administrative History: The first meeting of the tournament committee was held on August 31, 1948. Although it hosted its first tournament on October 15 of that year, it was active only sporadically until 1955. The last TCC Girls Curling Club tournament was held December 3, 1967. The tournament committee was responsible for arranging and running club tournaments and helping to make travel and (where necessary) accommodations arrangements for school teams going to out-of-town tournaments. The committee reported to the executive committee and while not explicitly identified as such was in essence a sub-committee of the executive. There was no tournament committee in 1952-1954, during which time its activities were carried out by the executive. The tournament committee consisted of three members: a tournament co-ordinator and two assistant co-ordinators.

Scope and Content: Series consists of tournament committee minutes, correspondence relating to tournament organization and travel, lists of tournament results and related newspaper clippings, financial records relating to tournament costs and revenues, and photographs and posters from the 1956 and 1957 South Saskatchewan Ladies Championship Brier (which were hosted by the club).

(Note that in this case, the function of arranging and organizing tournaments fell to a specific sub-unit of the overall administrative structure and therefore the series description requires an administrative history.)


3.5 Personal papers: a fonds-level description: (Table of Contents)

Personal papers are the records of individuals or families. The are described in the same way as corporate records save that the Biographical Sketch is used instead of the Administrative History.

Title: The John Smith fonds
Dates: [ca. 1868] - 1928.
Extent: 2 m. of textual records. -- ca. 450 drawings.

Biographical Sketch: Born in 1861, John Joseph Smith[11] emigrated from Suffolk, England with his parents Robert and Marian (nee Jones) in 1871. The family homesteaded near what is now Hamilton, Ontario before moving west to the Red River settlement in 1878. In 1881 Smith left home and began a lifetime of drifting across western and northern Canada[12] received no formal education after age 14 but showed artistic talent at an early age.[13] He worked at various times as a buffalo hunter, trapper, farm labourer and construction worker, supplementing his income by selling pencil sketches to newspapers in western Canada and as far away as Ontario. In 1914 he settled in The Pas, Manitoba, where he began to draw in earnest. In 1919 his material caught the attention of Wilfred Drew, an art fancier and gallery owner in Winnipeg, Manitoba, who became his agent. Smith's first exhibition was in 1923 but it was not until after his death in 1928 that his work gained widespread public recognition.[14]

Custodial History: After Smith's death, custody of the fonds passed to his agent, Wilfred Drew. In 1934 the Drew Gallery was purchased by Abramson and Associates, with custody of the fonds passing to them. In 1952 Smith's nephew, Theodore Jenkins, successfully sued Abramson for the original records. After his death in 1966 custody was transferred to his son and heir, Robert, who donated them to the Archives in 1967.

Scope and Content: Fonds consists primarily of original sketches, watercolours and line drawings depicting scenes from Smith's travels, particularly among native peoples in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Fonds includes a some rougher pencil sketches done while travelling but is principally composed of more sophisticated work dating from the 1914-1928 period. Textual records include correspondence with Wilfred Drew (1919-1928), financial records relating to gallery sales (1923-1927), clippings from newspapers in which his early work was published and personal correspondence with a variety of family members and others.



3.6. Location guides and file lists: (Table of Contents)

Location guides and file lists are not part of RAD. They are a way to help get the user from the inventory (the RAD description) to specific parts of the fonds in which the information sought is to be found. The inventory provides details of the intellectual organization of a group of records, based on shared provenance and function. A file list can help the user narrow the search. Physically finding the records requires box and shelf lists, which tell the archivist where to find the requested records.

The records of the Girls Curling Club might, for example, include a file list. The list for each series could be included after each series description if it was not too long or as a separate finding aid, divided by series name, in the case of larger fonds. The archivist's copy (and possibly the publicly available copy) would indicate what boxes comprise each series (according to whatever location code is used by the institution) and what files are in each box. We can append a file list and location guide to the TCC Girls Curling Club Tournaments records series.


3.7. Sample File List/Location Guide (Table of Contents)

[Because it is short, this could be put immediately after the Scope and Content note of the series description rather than at the end as a separate finding aid]


Location: Box 2

File List:

Committee Minutes - 1948-1951
Committee Minutes - 1955-1960
Committee Minutes - 1961-1967

Ledger Book - 1955-1967

Tournament Results - 1948-1955
Tournament Results - 1956-1960
Tournament Results - 1961-1967

Miscellaneous Correspondence - 1949-1964
Newspaper Clippings - 1948-1966

Tournament photographs

In Oversize Storage (Box 15):

1 poster - South Sask. Ladies Championship Brier - March 12, 1956
1 poster - South Sask. Ladies Championship Brier - March 18, 1957