The National Archives Catalog

Copy Status

Mandatory Repeatable Data Type Authority Level Available A/V Only Public Element
Yes No* Variable Character Length (40) Copy Status List Series
File Unit
No Yes

* Each physical occurrence (copy) of the archival materials may have only one Copy Status designated. If there are multiple copies of the archival materials, each copy should be assigned its own Copy Status.

Definition: The role or purpose of each physical occurrence (copy) of the archival materials. The purposes are preservation, reference, reproduction or some combination of the three.
Purpose: Provides information needed to determine the proper use and storage of the archival materials. Indicates which copy is appropriate to pull for research requests.
Relationship: This element is independent, but all of the Physical Occurrence Elements are dependent on it. For each copy of the archival materials to have any of the Physical Occurrence Elements, Copy Status must be created.

Choose the correct term from the Copy Status Authority List.

More than one Physical Occurrence
If the archival materials have more than one physical occurrence, each must have its own physical description. For example, a series of photographs may include the original negatives, duplicate negatives, and a photocopy of the prints. Each of these is a separate physical occurrence. The original negatives may be maintained for preservation purposes, the duplicate negatives for reproduction purposes, and the photocopies for reference purposes.

Different Copies - Same Purpose
Sometimes different copies serve the same purpose. For example, a motion picture film may have two preservation copies or a set of textual records may have 13 reference copies (each one in a different regional facility). In this case, each copy gets its own physical occurrence description.

Microform Publications
Microform publications are reproductions of archival materials, which are made available in research rooms for consultation and sometimes marketed and sold.

If the materials have been duplicated as a microform publication, do not describe the publication here as a separate physical occurrence. Instead, describe it in the Microform Publication Elements. The location of each copy of a microform publication is described separately in a microform locator.


  • Most textual paper-based records will serve all three purposes - the paper is the preservation copy, the reference copy, and the reproduction copy.

  • The original set of audiovisual archival materials is almost always used for preservation purposes.

[For the intermediate copy of a motion picture.]
[For a duplicate series of photographs available in a research room or in the stacks.]
[For a series of textual records serving all three purposes.]
[For a series of textual records with such a high historical value, such Presidential signatures, that it is not available for reference or reproduction. Duplicate sets of such a series would have their own physical description and copy status.]

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