ARST 545 (3) Advanced Arrangement and Description of Archival Documents


MLIS students: Completion of the MLIS Core courses, plus permission of the instructor

MAS and Dual students: Completion of the “Term 1” MAS Core courses

GOAL: This course helps students to extend their understanding of arrangement and description as acquired in the Master of Archival Studies (MAS) core courses. In the core arrangement and description class, we learned the history of the principles that underpin arrangement and description as well as established and accepted methodologies and standards for completing arrangement and description projects. In this course, we undertake a more critical analysis of arrangement and description principles and methods, paying special attention to how these have been challenged by and are adapting to technological and social pressures in the professional field and scholarly discipline.


Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Critically examine and assess the classical literature concerning the arrangement and description of archives and contemporary interpretations of that literature [1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 4.1]
  • Distinguish between and assess various contemporary perspectives and evolving ideas about the nature, purpose and implementation of archival arrangement and description theories and methods. [1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 4.1]
  • Recognize and explain archival arrangement and description as representational acts with social impacts [1.4, 5.1]
  • Appraise and critique archival descriptive standards (RAD and ICA standards) [1.2, 1.4]
  • Identify, articulate and describe current problems, issues and/or opportunities in arrangement and description [2.1, 4.1]
  • Identify, describe and assess emerging methodological approaches to arrangement and description [1.4, 4.1]

* Student learning outcomes reference the MAS Program Learning Outcomes


  • Arrangement and description as representational acts
  • Classical, contemporary and critical perspectives on the principles that underpin archival arrangement (provenance, respect des fonds, original order)
  • Challenges to established archival theories and practices
  • Contemporary, evolving and emerging perspectives on and models for archival description
  • Indigenizing and ‘decolonizing’ arrangement and description
  • Archival descriptive standards: their development, purposes, structures and effects
  • Reparative description: purposes and projects

Additional course topics may include, but not be limited to:

  • Computational approaches to arrangement and description
  • Confronting white supremacy and/or racist or offensive language in description
  • Accessibility and description
  • Non-narrative approaches to arrangement and description (e.g., information visualization, etc.)
  • Contemporary and alternative perspectives on subject access to description
  • Participatory approaches to arrangement and description
  • Metadata standards as/and archival description
  • Different disciplinary understandings of provenance
  • Fonds-based systems vs. series-based systems
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