Best Practices for Cataloging Artist Files Using MARC updates the cataloging recommendation included in Artist Files Revealed: Documentation and Access (published 2009/2010) and was guided by the following goals:

  • Provide conformance to RDA
  • Specify a reasonable level of descriptive detail, including an updated definition of artist files
  • 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 updated 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 are 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 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



$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

Use codes from Term and Code List for RDA Content Types.

RDA Media Types


Best to use specific types, such as:
$a unmediated $b n  $2 rdamedia
$a projected $b g $2 rdamedia
$a computer $b c $2 rdamedia

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

Use codes from Term and Code List for RDA Media Types.

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

Use codes from Term and Code List for RDA Carrier Types.

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/CVs, reviews, slides,  and other similar material. These items are typically small in size and not individually cataloged.

This statement combines examples from both Art and Architecture Thesaurus and Artist Files Revealed: Documentation and Access. The authority record from Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials references definitions from both sources. 

Subject Added Entry







$a Clark, Jim, $d 1938-

$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 specifically codifies terms for identifying genre/form. 

$2 supplies the code for the controlled vocabulary taken from the Genre/Form Code and Term Source Codes

$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.