The ICA description standards: the history of their creation and efforts to disseminate them

Comma (2011), 2011, (2), 49–58.


This account of the development and implementation of the ICA suite of standards for description - ISAD(G), ISAAR(CFP), ISDF and ISDIAH - begins with the factors that galvanised archivists from several countries to embark on developing standards for archival description. It describes the ICA bodies and structures under whose aegis the work was carried out, and the individuals who were involved at each stage. In this way, tribute is paid to the dedicated professionals who worked diligently on the standards and recognition is given to the employing institutions that supported them. The development and vetting of the standards and the efforts to meld the different approaches of various national standards are examined. Recent work has been directed towards harmonising the description control area of ISAD(G) with the later standards, and towards encouraging the use of all current and any future standards. Current challenges, particularly those relating to dissemination, training and implementation, are discussed, and recommendations are made in regard to future descriptive standards. Vitor Manoel Marques da Fonseca is a senior archivist at the Arquivo Nacional (Brazil) and a professor at the Departamento de Ciência da Informação [Information Science Department) of Universidade Federal Fluminense. He is a member of the ICA Committee of Best Practices and Standards and was, prior to that, a member of the Commission on Descriptive Standards. He is President of the Câmara Técnica de Normalização da Descrição (Technical Chamber of Description Standardization), of the Conselho Nacional de Arquivos (National Council of Archives, Brazil), President of the Memory of the World, Latin American and Caribbean Committee, a member of the Fund for International Development of Archives, President of the Editorial Board of Acervo and a member of the Advisory Board of Documento Monumento.

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Author details

da Fonseca, Vitor