The National Archives Catalog

Description Type Authority List

The Description Type Authority List provides data values for the Description Type element.The highest grouping of archival materials will be a record group or collection. At NARA, both function as a means for facilitating administrative control of holdings.

Record Group
scope note: A body of organizationally related records established on the basis of provenance by an archives for control purposes; A major archival unit that comprises the records of a large organization, such as a Government bureau or independent agency.

scope note: An artificial accumulation of documents brought together on the basis of some characteristic (e.g. means of acquisition, creator, subject, language, medium, form, name of collector) without regard to the provenance of the documents. The Presidential libraries often organize their archival materials by collections, which primarily fall into three categories: donated historical materials (relating to all Presidencies, Hoover-Bush), Presidential records (applying to Presidencies since Reagan), and Presidential historical materials (Nixon.)

scope note: File units or documents arranged in accordance with a filing system or maintained as a unit because they result from the same accumulation or filing process, the same function, or the same activity; have a particular form; or because of some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use.

File Unit
scope note: An organized unit (file, volume, etc.) of documents grouped together either for current use or in the process of archival arrangement. For NARA's descriptive practices, the file unit is the intellectual handling of the record item, which may or may not be the physical handling. In other words, a folder does not necessarily equal a file unit. For example, a case file may be in several physical folders, but is described as one file unit. For electronic records, the definition of a file unit level may be difficult. A file does not necessarily refer to a tape or to a particular data file.

scope note: The smallest indivisible archival unit (e.g. a letter, memorandum, report, leaflet, or photograph). For example, a book or record album would be described as an item, but the individual chapters of the book or the discs or songs that make up the album would not be described as items.
Do not use the Item description type to describe motion picture films, sound recordings or video recordings.

Item (AV)
scope note: Use the Item (AV) description type to describe audiovisual items. Audiovisual refers to Motion Picture Films, Sound Recordings, and Video Recordings.
Do not use this description type to describe photographs, artifacts or textual items.