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Description Assistance

Description Assistance: Cataloging California

What collections are hidden in your backlog?

Need an item-level inventory or catalog records?

Looking to digitize your unique collections but unsure where to begin?

California Revealed offers up to $3,000 in reimbursements to help cultural heritage organizations describe California-related collection materials. California libraries, archives, historical societies, and other cultural heritage organizations will be provided with the funding and guidance necessary to create item-level metadata records to describe physical and/or digital collections, with the end goal of nominating the materials for next year's Digitization & Preservation Assistance program. We hope that you will take advantage of this unique opportunity to give your collections the attention they deserve!  

The 2023/2024 Cataloging California Application is now open.

In addition to creating descriptions ideal for digitization and online discovery, Cataloging California can help:  

  • Address collection backlogs   

  • Rehouse materials and plan future preservation actions 

  • Increase intellectual and physical control over materials  

  • Foster skill-building for processing and cataloging 

  • Increase access to materials through accurate description and online discovery  

Along with workshops and training days, the California Revealed team will be available for mentorship and consultation throughout the program. California Revealed will offer virtual group check-ins to guide participants through the different components of description projects (ie., advice on hiring, metadata generation, material handling). Participants will have the option to be paired with a California Revealed team member who will be available for mentorship and consultation for the length of the project. 

Materials described through Cataloging California will be automatically considered as nominations for next year's Digitization & Preservation Assistance cycle unless an organization decides to opt out. Organizations may choose to nominate a subset of the materials if preferred. Organizations will need to submit a separate application for the Digitization & Preservation Assistance program and include the metadata records for the materials they wish to nominate.

Application Information 

Partner organizations will be reimbursed for up to $3,000 in labor and supplies costs upon receipt of deliverables at the end of the 2023/2024 cycle. Applicants must describe the scope of their project, propose a budget, and create a timeline to complete the work between October 1, 2023 and June 28, 2024. Once the application is accepted, this information will be used to create a contract for reimbursement. Work must be completed, and all deliverables submitted, by June 28, 2024. 

Collections must fall within California Revealed’s selection criteria. Applications are also evaluated based on the following parameters:   

  • Significance of the collection(s) to local and state history   

  • Timeframe and cost of the proposed project relative to its deliverables  

  • Clarity and feasibility of the plan to complete the proposed project.  

Please apply using the 2023/2024 Application form by Friday, September 15, 2023. 

Application Components 

  • Details regarding your organization, its demographics, and who will complete the description project.

  • Formats of the materials that will be described (audiovisual recordings, print materials, or digital files).

  • Overview, significance, and physical condition of the proposed collection(s) in relation to our selection criteria.

  • A project plan that includes:

    • Estimated number of items to be rehoused

    • Estimated number of metadata records to be created

      • Please note that creating item-level metadata records that conform to our Metadata Guidelines is required.

    • If you plan to create any broader levels of description for the collection (such as folder-level, collection-level, etc.)

    • If you have access to pre-existing resources that could be leveraged to describe the collection.

    • A budget proposal (see sample in Funding Details section below).

    • A timeline to complete the project between October 1, 2023 and June 28, 2024

Assistance is limited by the availability of LSTA funding. While reviewing applications, we give preference to new partners, as well as to organizations and collections that reflect communities who have been historically underrepresented in the narratives of California.

Funding Details

Participants will be provided with a contract agreement allowing for up to $3,000 in reimbursements for approved cataloging and description expenses.

Funding can cover:

  • Hourly labor for work completed on the project

    • Minimum pay must be $25 to $28/hour, commensurate with experience

    • Please refer to the Expectations for Descriptions section below for guidance on estimating the hours and skills needed to complete your project.

  • Staffing and benefits (up to 30% of hourly rate).

  • Rehousing supplies (e.g., file folders, archival boxes, and individual containers).

Funding cannot cover:

  • Computer hardware

  • Storage furniture

  • Other equipment

  • Indirect costs such as rent and utilities

Sample budget:

To create 600 item-level metadata records for 600 documents, we estimate:

  • 100 hours @$28/hr = $2,800

  • 600 acid-free folders @ $20/100 = $120

  • Total= $2920

Approved project expenses incurred by the organization are reimbursed at the end of the contract after receipt of final deliverables.

Requirements for Reimbursement

Cataloging California deliverables are due Friday, June 28, 2024, and must include:

  • Item-level metadata records that follow California Revealed’s Metadata Guidelines.

  • Finding aids or collection-level records, if applicable.

  • Reimbursement requests:

    • Invoice(s) form for hours worked.

    • Documentation of paid time via payment stubs or timesheets.

    • Reimbursement form for archival processing supplies.

    • Scanned receipts for archival processing supplies.

Please send electronic versions of the deliverables to Pamela Vadakan:

Upon submission of final deliverables, participants are encouraged to complete the 2024/2025 Digitization & Preservation Assistance Application and attach the metadata records created through Cataloging California as their nominations.

Expectations for Descriptions

Reimbursements must cover the creation of metadata records according to California Revealed’s Metadata Guidelines. These records must be submitted using the Inventory Spreadsheet.

Cataloging California is centered on describing collections by creating a separate metadata record (i.e., line on the spreadsheet) for each object so that the objects can be individually assessed, prioritized, and considered for digitization, preservation, and online access. A metadata record can represent a single object (e.g., an individual photograph, a video recording, a digital file), or an object with multiple parts or pages (e.g., a folder of newspaper clippings pertaining to one subject, an oral history interview consisting of several tapes, a book of many pages).

We estimate it takes 6 to 10 minutes to generate a metadata record for an object according to California Revealed's Metadata Guidelines. This estimate assumes that the collection is already well organized and that the material formats are uniform. Please keep in mind that the time it takes to describe a collection varies depending on the number and format of the objects, metadata generation and archival processing familiarity, and the level of detail provided in each record.

When considering who might be best equipped to complete description work that fulfills our reimbursement requirements, please keep in mind that experience with spreadsheets and data entry are necessary skills for generating metadata records. For additional guidance and resources regarding finding and hiring someone to complete this work, please reach out to

Minimum Required Metadata

  • Main Title - A name or label given to the object.

  • Call Number or Temporary Identifier - Unique identifier assigned to the object by your organization.

  • Created Date - Date of creation of the resource. Enter YYYY-MM-DD, YYYY-MM, or YYYY. If unknown, enter "XXXX". For objects created over a period of time, please enter that date range, e.g. 1941/1944.

  • Creator - An entity primarily responsible for creating the resource. The creator may be considered an author and could be one or more people, a business, organization, group, project or service. For individual creators, enter using the following format: Last Name, First Name. If unknown, enter "Unknown."

  • Significance - Please explain why the object is significant to California and/or local history. This is the major criterion for inclusion. Please justify why the object should be preserved and made accessible for future generations. This field will not display online and is for nomination purposes only.

  • Description - General notes or summary about the content and context of the object. Please copy over any content description from the "Significance" field and provide as much detail as possible to enhance discoverability.

  • Copyright Statement - Information about rights held in and over the object. Review our resources on Copyright and Permissions for assistance. For this field, please choose one of the three boilerplate statements supplied and amend the statement with your contact information as needed:

    • Public domain.

      • Full statement: "Public Domain. No restrictions on use."

    • Copyrighted. Rights to the work are owned by the partner or copyright holder has given partner permission.

      • Full statement: "Copyrighted. Rights are owned by [insert name of Library/Archive or Copyright Holder]. Copyright Holder has given Institution permission to provide access to the digitized work online. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the Copyright Holder. In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user."

    • Copyright status unknown. The work may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.), but its status is unknown.

      • Full statement: "Copyright status unknown. This work may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, it's reproduction may be restricted by terms of gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. This work is accessible for purposes of education and research. Transmission or reproduction of works protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. [insert name of Library/Archive] attempted to find rights owners without success but is eager to hear from them so that we may obtain permission, if needed. Upon request to [insert email address at Library/Archive], digitized works can be removed from public view if there are rights issues that need to be resolved."

  • Media Type - Choose from the following: Still Image, Text, Moving Image, or Sound.

  • Condition - If the object is deteriorated, damaged, or requires special handling, please comment accordingly. This field will not display online; it is mostly for nomination purposes initially and can be helpful information for the digitization vendor.

  • Format - See Metadata Guidelines for controlled vocabulary list. For example, book, photograph, text document (unbound), map, drawing. If a moving image recording or audio recording, then format specific type and gauge, e.g., 1 /8 inch audio cassette, Film: 16mm. See drop-down options on the inventory spreadsheet.

  • Number of parts - For example, total number of pages (for bound or unbound resources), images, cassette tapes, film reels, LP records, e.g. 3 Pages, or 3 Tapes. If you are nominating a folder of items, please let us know the number of pages in the folder. If you are nominating a scrapbook, please let us know the number of pages and inserts per page. It can be approximate; this information is used to estimate costs for digitization.

  • Dimensions or Duration - Physical dimensions (width and height in inches) for texts and still images, e.g., 12 x 18 in.; total running time for audiovisual recordings, e.g., 00:40:00. It can be approximate. This information is used to estimate costs for digitization. If you are nominating a folder of items, please let us know the maximum dimensions of the biggest item in the folder. Please note that the maximum dimensions of oversize print materials, e.g., books, photographs, newspapers, that can be accommodated without digital stitching are 37 inches in the long dimension and 28 inches in the short dimension.

Additional Metadata 

To maximize the discoverability of your collection, we encourage you to add more than just the required fields, with an emphasis on: 

  • Item Annotations - Any relevant information as it is recorded on container, label(s), and/or the item itself. Record all text verbatim. 

  • Subject Topics and Entities - Topic headings, keywords and/or personal names that portray the intellectual content of the resource. 

  • Spatial and Temporal Coverage - The geographic location and/or the time period covered by the resource's intellectual content. 

  • Genre - Categorical description informed by the topical nature or a particular style or form of the content.  

Records that are incomplete or do not conform to our standards must be corrected before the reimbursement requests can be processed. 

Cataloging California Information Session: Recording and Slides

  • Recorded September 6, 2023. This webinar walks participants through California Revealed's essential fields to inventory mixed collections and help organizations address their collection backlogs. We also review the application process and expected deliverables for Cataloging California Description Assistance. 

Cataloging California Meet & Greet #1: Slides 

Cataloging California Meet & Greet #2: Slides 

Cataloging California Meet & Greet #3: Slides 



Contact Pamela Vadakan, Director, California Revealed 
(916) 603-6719/