The 2018 Best Practices for Cataloging Artist Files Using MARC updates the cataloging recommendation included in Artist Files Revealed: Documentation and Access (2009/2010) and was developed with the following goals:

  • Provide conformance to RDA
  • Specify a reasonable level of descriptive detail, including an updated definition of artist files for the 500 note
  • Improve indexing, especially for grouping and processing large sets of records in union cataloging environments such as WorldCat
  • Lower the barrier for institutions to create MARC cataloging for their artist files
  • Lower the barrier for institutions who have already completed MARC cataloging to normalize them according to the recommendation

This recommendation uses the definition of artist files as codified in Artist Files Revealed: Documentation and Access, with minor corrections:

The subjects of artist files represented in most collections encompass, but is not limited to, the following:
Individuals: Administrators, architects, artists, authors, bookbinders, collectors, connoisseurs, critics, conservators, craftsmen, curators, dealers, designers, educators, filmmakers, historians, journalists, patrons, printers, publishers, scholars, etc.
Institutions: Academic institutions, architectural firms, archives, auction houses, commercial galleries, foundations, foundries, galleries, governmental bodies, historic sites, institutes, kunsthalles, libraries, monuments, museums, publishers, religious organizations, research centers, private collections, societies, etc.

The recommendation does not address authority control, other than specifying “artist files” for form/genre access. Though MARC 21 is used as the recommended data format, fields and content can be adapted to other data formats. Institutions are of course free, and even encouraged, to enhance their records by providing additional access points, subjects, etc.

The ARLIS/NA Cataloging Advisory Committee and OCLC Metadata Quality approved this recommendation on [date].

Field Ind
Value/Example Notes/Discussion
Type of Record
    p – Mixed materials  
Bibliographic Level
    c – Collection  
Type of Archival Control
    Blank – No specific type of control  
Encoding Level
    Choose level as appropriate Many institutions will use code “M” (added from a batch process) for large groups of records uploaded as a set.
Descriptive Cataloging Form
    i – ISBD  
Type of Date/Publication Status
    n – Unknown date
May use other type of date if needed
Date 1 and Date 2
    Blanks – No dates
May use specific dates if needed
Country of Publication, etc.
May use specific country code if needed
Language Code
May use specific language code if needed
Cataloging Source
    $a AS0 $b eng $e rda $e dcarlisnaaf $c AS0

Use code “dcarlisnaaf” from the Descriptive Convention Source Codes (pending code approval) to indicate that the record conforms to this standard and to supply an additional indexed field for finding these records.

View WorldCat indexing and searching for this field.

Title Statement
0 0

$a Jim Clark : $k artist file.

$a Roman Bronze Works Foundry : $k artist file.

$a  Buffalo Bill Historical Center : $k artist file.

View WorldCat indexing and searching for this field. Subfield k, which codifies “a term that is descriptive of the form of the described materials,” does not have a distinct WorldCat index but is included in title and keyword indexes, including ti:, kw:, and td:.
Physical Description

Best to use:
$a various pieces

Also okay to use use:
$a folders

“Various pieces” is preferred, but some institutions may wish to use “folders” or exact number of folders to help express the size of the collection.
RDA Content Types
    Best to use specific types, such as:
$a text $b txt $2 rda content
$a still image $b sti $2 rda content

Also okay to use:
$a other $b xxx $2 rdacontent
$a unspecified $b zzz $2 rdacontent

RDA Media Types
    Best to use specific types, such as:
$a unmediated $b n  $2 rdamedia
$a projected $b g $2 rdamedia

Also okay to use:
$a other $b x $2 rdamedia
$a unspecified $b z $2 rdamedia

RDA Carrier Types
    Best to use specific types, such as:
$a volume $b nc $2 rdacarrier
$a sheet $b nb $2 rdacarrier
$a card $2 rdacarrier

Also okay to use:
$a other $2 nz $2 rdacarrier
$a unspecified $b zu $2 rdacarrier

General Note
    $a Mixed collection of published and unpublished items that may include items such as announcements, articles, artist statements and manifestos, brochures, clippings, correspondence, digital media, exhibition catalogs and checklists, interviews, invitations, manuscripts, memorabilia, oral histories, posters, press releases, resumes, reviews, slides,  and other similar material. These items are typically small in size and not individually cataloged.

Authority record from Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials references authoritative definitions for artist files. 

See also the definition included in Artist Files Revealed: Documentation and Access.

Subject Added Entry







$a Clark, Jim, $d 1925-

$a Roman Bronze Works Foundry.

$a Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

Index Term – Genre/Form

Best to use:
$a Artist files. $2 lcgft $0 (lcgft)gf2017027219

Also okay to use:
$a Artist files. $2 aat $0 (aat)300312067

Best to use the term from the Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials, which are terms specifically compiled for identifying genre/form.

$0 supplies the identifier for the term

URI for lcgft term

URI for aat term

View WorldCat indexing and searching for this field.

Added Entry





$a Clark, Jim, $d 1938-

$a Roman Bronze Works Foundry.

$a Buffalo Bill Historical Center.