How CSWR collections are identified and labeled: a quick guide.
In the interest of consistency and ease of use, archives assign collections codes or numbers called identifiers when they are integrated into the repository. The entire collection is assigned an identifier, and then the containers that make up the collection (boxes and folders inside those boxes) are organized and described in the finding aid. Individual items in collections are usually not described. This differs from a museum or a library collection, where each individual object gets its own unique identifier. At the CSWR, we use several different identifiers for different kinds of collections.
MSS: manuscript collection|
PICT: pictorial collection|
UNMA: UNM Archives collection|
SWA: Southwest Architecture collection|
MU: Music Collections|
WPA: WPA Files Collection|
NOTE! In some cases donations of material may be divided into multiple collections with different identifiers. This often happens when materials consist both of papers (manuscript collection) and photographs or images (pictorial collection). For example, the Gendron Jensen Pictorial Collection (PICT-000-1068) is distinct from the Gendron Jensen Papers (MSS-1068-BC), even though both collections contain the artist's materials. Archivists separate materials in cases like this to make materials easier to find, but also so that pictorial materials fall under the authority of archivists who specialize in their management since some pictorial materials like photographs, sketches, or negatives may require special care. Make sure to include the MSS or PICT portion of the identifier when requesting materials so that archival staff pull the correct items!
The CSWR's manuscript (MSS) collections are also subdivided into "big" and "small" collections. Manuscript collection identifiers will include either "BC" or "SC."
BC: big collection|
These collections typically take up one or more standard-sized banker's boxes. (Some of the CSWR's collections consist of over 100 boxes!)|
SC: small collection|
These collections, as the name suggests, are small. They might range from just a few sheets of paper to one file folder.|
It's important to make sure and include the entire code when requesting materials, including the BC or SC component. Big and small collections are filed and stored differently - leaving the BC or SC off might cost valuable research time! (Note: only MSS collections include BC or SC in their identifiers. There are small pictorial collections as well - whether a given pictorial collection is small or not will be indicated in the notes on the finding aid.)
The Society of American Archivists (SAA) is North America's oldest and largest national professional association dedicated to the needs and interests of archives and archivists. SAA provides training, resources, and advocacy for archivists, but more importantly for the purposes of this guide, the SAA provides a Dictionary of Archival Terminology.
While many of the definitions in the Dictionary reflect their usage as technical terms in the archival profession, it still offers a useful tool to patrons of archives.
For more broad and immediately useful definitions of some of the terms used in this guide, scroll further down the page and explore the Glossary. The definitions in the glossary are all adapted from their respective entries in the SAA's Dictionary of Archival Terminology.