black and white photograph of Amherst, MA featuring Amherst College, 1800s

This glossary provides definitions of institutional, library, or archival terms we may use frequently.

For more thorough glossaries of library and archival terms, see the Society of American Archivists’ A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology and the Getty’s Introduction to Metadata Glossary.

ACDC: An acronym for Amherst College Digital Collections, the repository for our digital collections. It is the result of collaboration between the Amherst College Library and Information Technology Services. The repository holds over one hundred thousand digitized art works, photographs, manuscripts, books, and other media from the Archives & Special Collections and the library’s Art & Architecture Collection. For more information, see the Digital Collections page of this blog.

Artificial collection: A collection of materials with different provenance assembled and organized to facilitate its management or use. (Definition from A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology)

Bicentennial collections: The 24 collections that the library aims to digitize and make available via ACDC in part or whole.

Bicentennial project: The Bicentennial project encompasses the library’s efforts to digitize and make available via ACDC 16 collections in part or whole by the start of the bicentennial (academic year 2020-2021). See the Amherst College Bicentennial page or the blog post Welcome to the Bicentennial and What’s up with the Bicentennial Project? for more information.

Bicentennial Working Group: This has members from the Archives & Special Collections (A & SC), Digital Programs, and Metadata departments along with the Librarian of the College. Members of the Communication department and the editor of the College timeline have also attended the group occasionally. The Bicentennial Working Group is responsible for choosing the collections that will be digitized and made available in anticipation of the College’s 200-year anniversary and is also responsible for overall project management relating to the Bicentennial project.

Collection: 1. A group of materials with some unifying characteristic. – 2. Materials assembled by a person, organization, or repository from a variety of sources; an artificial collection. – collections, pl. – 3. The holdings of a repository. (Definition from A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology)

Finding aid:  1. A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records. – 2. A description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials. (Definition from A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology). All of Amherst College Archives & Special Collections finding aids are available through the Five College Archives & Manuscript Collections site.

Item: An individual object such as a letter, book, essay, work of art, or pamphlet. Item and object or digital object are used interchangeably on the blog.

Digital object: An individual digitized item such as a letter, book, essay, or pamphlet. Item and object or digital object are used interchangeably on the blog.

Metadata: Data that describes and gives information about other data. For example, the metadata of an archival object that has been digitized and made available in ACDC includes a title, dates, an abstract, a physical description and more. Take a look at All of the text on the page is metadata which describes the images. Another example of metadata is the information included in a finding aid. Metadata enables users to find, identify, select, and obtain resources. It also helps us preserve and manage resources.

MODS: MODS stands for Metadata Object Description Schema. It is an XML metadata schema that was developed and is maintained by the Library of Congress. ACDC uses MODS as a metadata schema to describe our resources. More information on MODS can be found on the Library of Congress MODS site. Our institutional MODS guidelines are included in the internal documentation section of this website.

OCR: OCR stands for optical character recognition. 1. The process of transforming images of characters in a document to the equivalent ASCII code for those characters. – 2. Typography · Designed to be read using such techniques. (Definition from A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology)

Processing:  The arrangement, description, and housing of archival materials for storage and use by patrons. (Definition from A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology).

Schema: Also called scheme. The organization, structure, and rules for encoding information that supports specific communities of users. (Definition from Introduction to Metadata Glossary)

Series:  A group of similar records that are arranged according to a filing system and that are related as the result of being created, received, or used in the same activity; a file group; a record series. (Definition from A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology). For example, the materials in the Frederic Brewster Loomis (AC 1896) Papers, 1896-1938 are arranged into four series: Professional Correspondence, 1910 – 1929, Scientific Expeditions, 1903 – 1938, Teaching, 1901-1937, Scientific Research, 1904 – 1938.

Sources for this glossary: 

Baca, M. (Ed.). (2016). Introduction to Metadata, 3rd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Publications.

Pearce-Moses, R. (2005). A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology. Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists.