Manuscripts Metadata

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Please see Manuscripts.

The content below is deprecated, and retained for reference.

Copy the Ms_template.xlsx Excel spreadsheet to the collection folder, Metadata subfolder on the S drive where you will be working. This spreadsheet lives in Digital Projects\Administration\TEMPLATES\ also, on the S drive.

(Guidelines for setting up spreadsheets are Db_guidelines_gen.docx and also in the TEMPLATES directory (db_guidelines_gen.docx).

Use the guidelines set forth by Mary Alexander Db_guidelines_gen.docx (also in the TEMPLATES directory: db_guidelines.docx); do not fill in Date ISO, Creator or Funding Information. See these guidelines for date formatting as well.

Some information to put into the spreadsheet will be found in the finding aid. The Manuscript number is the number of the collection finding aid you want to check. Look here [[1]] and match up the name of the collection this came from with the name of the finding aid, then check the number to make sure it's the same one.

If the finding aid is not online, check with Donnelly Lancaster to see if there is one. If there is not, follow her instructions for the data that you would otherwise find there.


This data includes:

  • Title
  • Extent (include number of pages, also; not just number of items.)
  • Date
  • Collection number (this is the Manuscript number)
  • Provenance (format as "Gift of ___, [year here]")
  • abstract (read this -- if it does not apply to the item specifically, write a short description of the content of the letter.)
  • biographical note
  • scope note (read this -- if it does not apply to the item specifically, do not include)
  • container information (box number, folder number)

From the letter itself:

  • Dates
  • sender
  • recipient
  • location of sender
  • location of recipient (Google the county if necessary, fill in these in the LCSH format indicated)
  • Number of pages (front and back)
  • language

Notes for Different Types of Manuscript Metadata Entries

Within the manuscript collections, there will be a variety of material types that will need metadata. The different manuscript material types that one may encounter are: correspondence, ledgers, letter books, deeds, indentures, contracts, diaries, and more.

When completing the metadata, one will use all the required fields for manuscript metadata (collection number, container number, rights, provenance, etc.), however there may be some confusion or questions on how to type in the “Title” field within the metadata spreadsheet.

First, begin by looking over the item and ask yourself, “What type of item is it? What information does it give me? What information do I need?” Collecting the descriptive information for a ledger or deed is much like collecting the descriptive information for a letter. With a letter you need: sender, sender location, recipient, recipient location, and date. Example for a “Title” entry for a letter: Letter from John Doe, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Jane Doe, Montgomery, Alabama, January 1, 2000. Keep this same type of information to keep in mind when dealing with other types of manuscript materials, such as, contracts, deeds, ledgers, diaries, etc.

If you have a deed for a sale of land, what would the “Title” field be? Well, it can differ depending on what information is given on the deed itself. One example is: Deed from John Doe to Jane Doe, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, May 1, 1900. That entry is similar to a letter but there are no sender location or recipient location. There is only the location of the creation of the document.

Many legal documents have bold-faced names on top of the documents that tells what they are. Examples are: Transcript of Deed, Memorandum of Agreement, Quit-Claim Deed, Bill of Exchange, Indenture, etc. Then the “Title” field could be: Bill of Exchange from John Doe to Jane Doe, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, August 1, 1900.

Ledgers, diaries, and letter books are similar in the information they give you and what is needed for a manuscript metadata entry. With most of these items, there will be a date or a date range (sometimes this is given on the cover or you may have to scan the pages to get this information), the person who created it, and it may give the creator’s location. An example of a metadata entry is: Diary of John Doe, 1900-1904. Another example is: Ledger of Accounts Payable, John Doe and Company, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1900.

Dates--Like with correspondence sometimes the location or date may not be given. If a date is not given try to estimate a “circa” date. The document may mention, “on 21 May 1837, John Doe paid $200 on said promissory note.” With that information, the document could have been created in 1837, but it may not have been, so you could use “circa 1840” for date.