<archdesc> Archival Description

This element serves as the wrapper for the majority of the EAD document. It describes the “content, context, and extent of a body of archival materials, including administrative and supplemental information that facilitates use of the materials.”


  • ALTRENDER – not required. Use if the content of the element should be displayed or printed differently than the rendering established in a style sheet for other occurrences of the element.
  • AUDIENCE – not required. Use to set whether the element’s contents will be visible to external users or to internal ones. Possible values are: “internal” and “external.”
  • ID – not required. Creates an ID for element. Can be used for linking.
  • ENCODINGANALOG – not required. May contain information to map this tag to a particular element in another schema.
  • LEVEL – required. You must designate whether this is a class, collection, file, fonds, item, otherlevel, recordgrp, series, subfonds, subgrp, or subseries.
  • OTHERLEVEL – if you set the LEVEL attribute to “otherlevel,” because your repository has a different term for it, you must specify the other term here.
  • RELATEDENCODING – not required. If only the archdesc element (not the entire finding aid) is going to be mapped to a particular standard such as MARC or Dublin Code, this is where one would specify it.
  • TYPE – not required. The TYPE attribute can be used to categorize the finding aid as an inventory, register, or whatever format you/your repository decides on.

<archdesc> only has one required attribute, LEVEL. This attribute is comparable to ISAD(G) data element 3.1.4 and MARC field 351 subfield c.


The <did> (Descriptive Information element) must appear inside <archdesc> before using more specific tags such as <bioghist>, <scopecontent>, and <dsc>. <did> is used to provide a basic description of the archival materials.

<archdesc> can contain more subelements than I can easily spell out here, and we’ll talk about each of these later, but the subelements which can be used inside it are:

<accessrestrict>, <accruals>, <acqinfo>, <altformavail>, <appraisal>, <arrangement>, <bibliography>, <bioghist>, <controlaccess>, <custodhist>, <dao>, <daogrp>, <descgrp>, <did>, <dsc>, <fileplan>, <index>, <note>, <odd>, <originalsloc>, <otherfindaid>, <phystech>, <prefercite>, <processinfo>, <relatedmaterial>, <runner>, <scopecontent>, <separatedmaterial>, and <userestrict>.

These elements will be available within <dsc> elements later on, but we’ll talk about them then. Information will be inherited hierarchically from elements at previous levels.


Use DACS Section 1. Level of description for the LEVEL attribute. (DACS 2013, pp.7-11)

Our EAD file so far

This is our EAD file so far…coming up next, we’ll start adding tags. Not in the same order as the tags above, though. We’ll start with the required <did> and work from there. Since the LEVEL attribute is required, let’s put it in now.

		<eadid countrycode="us" mainagencycode="dgwl" url="http://www.eadiva.com/sample/">rkt-01</eadid>
				<titleproper>Inventory of Something Useful for Learning EAD <date>2012-2013</date></titleproper>
				<subtitle>A totally awesome finding aid with a subtitle too</subtitle>
				<author>Ruth K. Tillman, the EADiva</author>
				<sponsor>Encoding thanks to EADiva's donation of her spare time.</sponsor>
			<editionstmt><edition>1st ed.</edition>
			<p>Didn't need to specify since it's first edition, but wanted to use the fields.</p>
					<addressline>1600 Pennsylvania Ave</addressline>
					<addressline>Washington, DC, 20001</addressline>
					<addressline>Phone: 202-555-1234</addressline>
			<seriesstmt><p>Bell Family Papers</p>
					<p>The materials in this finding aid are based on an actual collection of Sarah J. Bell Kitchin's letters.</p>
					<p>This finding aid was created as a project for the EADiva.com website.</p>
			<creation>This finding aid was encoded by Ruth K. Tillman, on <date normal="20121118">November 18th, 2012</date>, using Notepad++. Material was generated off the top of her head.</creation>
			<langusage>This finding aid is written in <language langcode="eng">English</language>.
			<descrules>This finding aid was prepared using Ruth's understanding of EAD and her use of the LOC EAD 2002 official website.</descrules>
				<date normal="20121204">December 4, 2012</date>
				<item>This finding aid was edited by Ruth Tillman in order to clarify contents in eadheader.</item>
		<p>This inventory was prepared as part of the EADiva website to demonstrate EAD encoding of finding aids. It encodes information about the collection of the papers of Sarah Bell Kitchin as well as made-up information used to make the finding aid use more example elements. Like this one.</p></div>
			<titleproper>Inventory of Something Useful for Learning EAD <date>2012-2013</date></titleproper>
			<subtitle>A totally awesome finding aid with a subtitle too</subtitle>
			<author>Ruth K. Tillman, the EADiva</author>
	<archdesc level="collection">

EAD tag library entry for <archdesc>.