(WHS Archives) EAD -- Appendix G. Contents List Guidelines

Guidelines for creating contents lists at WHS to ensure consistency

Appendix G. Contents List Guidelines

To ensure consistency across WHS finding aids, please follow these guidelines when creating contents lists in ArchivesSpace. These guidelines may differ slightly from cataloging practices depending on the material cataloged and what content standard is being used for description.
Box and folder information might be included in examples to show public display. This information to be entered as an instance in ASpace.

General formatting and punctuation guidelines

  • Box number repeated for each folder
  • One space after a period (not two)
  • No periods at the end of series, subseries, or folder titles
  • Do not use apostrophes to form plurals: CDs (not CD’s), 1940s (not 1940’s)
  • Avoid ampersands (unless part of an official company name: AT&T)
  • Avoid hyphens or dashes (apart from date ranges or file ranges: A-Z)
    For example:
         Henry Getto House, Old World Wisconsin not Henry Getto House-Old World Wisconsin
  • In general, include punctuation within quotation marks
    For example:
         “Automation: We Can Handle It,” which appeared in Look on January 12, 1965.
    “Automation: We Can Handle It”, which appeared in Look on January 12, 1965.


  • Expand abbreviations, unless part of a formal title (for example, for a book, article, play, film, radio or television series or court case).
  • Examples of commonly abbreviated words to spell out
    • Company
    • County
    • Corporation
    • Department
    • Division
    • Governor
    • Senator
    • President
    • Representative
    • Names of states (Minnesota, not MN; North Carolina, not NC)
    • Names of months (January, not Jan.)
    • Volume (except in a periodical citation: Vol. 3, no. 2)
    • Number (except in a periodical citation: Vol. 3, no.2)
    • cubic feet[foot] not c.f.
    • regarding not re: or in re:
    • also known as not aka
    • that is not i.e.
    • for example not e.g.
    • and others not et al. (except in the instance of court cases)
  • The following abbreviations are fine:
    • Inc. (do not preceded with a comma: Historic Madison Inc.)
    • Ltd. (do not preceded with a comma)
    • LLC
    • D.C. (for District of Columbia)
    • Dr.
    • Rev.
    • Hon.
    • Mr./Mrs./Ms.
    • Jr./Sr. (do not preceded with a comma: Martin Luther King Jr., Robert M. La Follette Sr.)
    • Fr./Sr. (for religious appellations: Sr. Mary Mark)
    • Lt. Governor (spell out first instance)
    • et al. and ex rel. (when used in the legal sense; do not italicize; periods only after the second word)
    • v. (not vs.) for “versus” in court cases
    • Vol. and no. for periodical citations
    • mm and cm (technically not abbreviations)


  • Spell out first instance in abstract, scope and content, biography/historical statement, and contents list
  • Use of acronym thereafter is fine, unless there may be confusion with other acronyms within the finding aid
  • In general, do not use periods after each letter (exception for U.S.; but use USA)
  • Spelling out with acronym in parenthesis, or acronym with full name in parenthesis are both fine; try to be consistent in finding aid; after first time acronym can just be used
    For example:
         Associated Press (AP)
         NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
         University of Wisconsin-Madison [no need to put acronym for UW in parenthesis first time listed; however, spell out UW when a new campus is mentioned]
  • Exceptions
    • Unsure of acronym meaning
    • Call signs for radio and television stations, such as WTMJ
    • Original meaning is no longer relevant, such as REI or OCLC. In these cases, using just the acronyms is fine although adding a qualifier in parenthesis may help.
    • USS or SS for names of ships (U.S.S. Wisconsin)


  • Personal names
    • Last name first when arranging list alphabetically by name/subject
    • When more than one name, subsequent names after the first name listed, list other names in direct order;
           Friend, Fred W., Robert Liewbowitz, and Ralph Molinaro
    • When two persons have same last name the last name can be listed once (especially married couples sharing same last name), unless the two individuals are not related
           Berland, Isaac and Pauline
    • Titles and suffixes: when names are list arranged alphabetically, they go after the full name (last, first middle, title, suffix)
           Baron, Joseph, Rabbi
           Adams, Cyrus Hall, Jr.
    • Dates: in contents list only include birth and death dates if there are more than one person with same exact name and there are no titles or suffixes to differentiate between them
  • Corporate bodies
    • Geographical designation for government bodies, if Wisconsin, can be excluded in the contents list (do not exclude in creator or title of collection)
           Department of Transportation not Wisconsin Department of Transportation
      however do not exclude for corporate bodies where Wisconsin is part of the Agency name or is a non-government entity
           Wisconsin Historical Society
           Wisconsin Paper Council
    • Direct order, including businesses which start with a forename and surname
           Roger Blobaum & Associates
  • Titles
    • Ignore initial articles, such as "the" and "a"/"an," for alphabetization; however, do not move to end of the title


  • Title case for Collection, Part, and Series titles
  • Title case for formal titles in all sections of finding aid (for example: a report title, article, film, play, radio or television series)
    • Formal titles are for materials which have been published, or titles for drafts of items to be published (even if they were not)
    • See instruction for formal titles below
  • Capitalize proper nouns such as names of committees, organizations, or businesses
    For example:
         Executive Committee
         Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP or later (notoriously), CREEP)
         Oscar Mayer Company
  • Subseries, folder, and item titles, only capitalize first letter and proper nouns
    • Most folder or item titles are not formal titles but rather devised by either the creating entity or the archives
    • Expand any acronyms or abbreviations according to instructions
      For Example:
           Articles of incorporation and by-laws not Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws
           Board of Directors meeting not Board of Directors Meeting
           National Endowment for the Humanities grant information not National Endowment for the Humanities Grant Information

Dates (see DACS 2.4)

  • Format dates of materials as Year Month Day: 2014 September 4
  • Do not abbreviate months
  • Do not abbreviate years: 1978-1979 not 1978-9
  • If range of exact dates, only list same year/month once
    For example:
         1972 September 30-October 5
         2000 October-2001 December
         2005 May 1-5
  • Seasons follow year: 2002 Spring
  • Fiscal year (abbreviate FY but do not abbreviate year: FY 2001 or FY 1998/1999)
  • Nonconsecutive years can be separated by commas,
    • However, try not to have more than 4, be it ranges or single years -- if this is the case then use circa dates for first and last year
      For example:
           circa 1919-circa 1935 not 1919, 1921-1923, 1925-1926, 1930, 1934-1935
  • Do not add times of day to dates
    For example:
        Matrixx Marketing Research, Spirituality Focus Groups, 1997 March 26
    Matrixx Marketing Research, Spirituality Focus Groups, 8:00 PM, Room B, 1997 March 26


  • “cubic feet” or "cubic foot" no longer “c.f.”
  • “records center cartons”
  • "archives box(es)" or "half-archives box(es)"
  • “mm” (millimeter) and “cm” (centimeter) is preceded by a space and does not end with a period
  • “audio recordings” (two words) preferred wording for sound materials
  • “video recordings” is now two words in our finding aids
  • 1/2 or 3/4-inch (not ½ or ¾; do not use quotation mark for "inch")
  • Spell out “sound,” “silent,” “color” and “b&w” in film physical descriptions (differs from old cataloging practice)

Formal titles and statement of responsibility

  • Use title case for formal titles. “A formal title is the title of a work as assigned at the point of creation or production, or is historically associated with the work even if assigned at a later date. A formal title typically appears on the manuscript's title page, colophon, or caption.” (from DCRM(MSS) glossary)
  • Italicize title if for a book, film, magazine, newspaper, exhibit title, play, radio or television series. Add <title> tag
         <title render="italic">Washington Post</title>
  • Double quotes if the title is for an article, column in a newspaper, an episode of a television or radio program, or chapter of a book; providing title of larger work, in italics, if known. Add <title> tag
         <title render="doublequote">Laverne &#38; Shirley</title>
  • Double quotes if the work is believed to be unpublished
  • Add material type such as manuscript, draft, typescript, photocopy, fragment (see DCRM(MSS) Area 1D on Material Type)
  • When a statement of responsibility (author, editor, illustrator, etc.) is present with a formal title, follow the formal title with a space-slash-space.
    For example:
         Meeting at the Summit / by Reuven Frank and Paul Cunningham, 1955 July 17

              Living, 1948-1950
                       Program file
326    10               #26, “The Biggest Job in the World” / by Wade Arnold, 1948 August 22

Hierarchy in Content List

  • If same portion of title appears for a group of folders think of using as a heading instead
    For Example:
         Public Instruction-Categorical Aids
         Public Instruction-School District Operations
         Public Instruction-Choice and Charter
             Public Instruction
                  Categorical Aids
                  School District Operations
                  Choice and Charter
  • Exception: When a folder title continues into another box, repeat the title
    For example:
4    33-37        Correspondence, 1969-1975
5    1-3            Correspondence, 1976-1980
4    33-37        Correspondence, 1969-1980
5    1-3            Correspondence, 1969-1980 (continued)
Please use “(continued)” not “, continued” or “(cont.)” as part of title
  • Subseries/Heading with only 1 file: Please continue following hierarchy of other similar subseries/heading within a series
    For example:
1    3-4        Reports
1    5           Regional reports
1    6           County level data
1    7           County level reports
1    8            Reports
1    9            Reports
1    10          Regional reports
1    8         2002, reports
  • Consolidate folder titles whenever possible, combine two folders with the same heading into a single line; however, do not combine multiple boxes. Even if the folders are different years, as long as they are in the same box they can be combined. (In example below folder 2 may only hold 1987 and folder 3 may only hold 1988 but this is fine as the user will be able to find what they need)
    For example:
3    2-3      Meeting minutes and agendas, 1987-1988


  • Unless whole collection is restricted list restriction at the collection and part level
  • If only parts of a box are restricted, add restriction note with “RESTRICTED” or “COPYRIGHT RESTRICTION” whichever is more appropriate.

Physical description of item

  • May be used for audio/visual materials, if deemed necessary, but rare. Usually added when equipment is not available for use or is rare format such as a tintype.
  • Add physical description note
  • Do not note the number of folders or items as this is apparent by the container description.
  • Physical description information is usually provided at the Collection and/or Part and does not need to be repeated

Words to avoid

•    “above” and “below” in the narrative or the contents list, these terms are not helpful in a digital environment
•    "Miscellaneous" or "miscellany": if necessary, miscellaneous is preferred over miscellany, and never abbreviate
•    "etc."

Outside of ASpace: Indexes in Excel

•    Do not give one column for each part of a name (Last, First, suffix); please put in only one field. These can be combined but it takes some effort to fix.
•    Do not give one column for each part of the date (Year Month Day); please put in only one field
•    Put container or call number in far left (or far right) column; left is preferred, however if it makes more sense to be last then justify right
•    Follow basic rules above
•    Keep simple, as list will likely be marked up as a table

See old EAD manual on L drive for Word document formatting instructions

JNW, AEB, and KK, 2014 September 11-22; rev aeb 20181106, 20230104, 20240209

KeywordsEAD guidelines contents   Doc ID87576
OwnerAlison B.GroupUWLSS
Created2018-11-06 13:28:16Updated2024-03-06 12:12:08
SitesUW Libraries Shared Systems
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