Draw up a placement list (scenario 1)

This article describes how you can create a placement list, which is a useful tool for providing access to your archive. For more information about providing access to your archive and the various tools you can use to facilitate it, please see the article: Create an access pass and describe your archive.

(c) AMVB

(c) AMVB

What is a placement list?

Placement lists provide an overview of all the packaging units in an archive (per box or folder), in the order that they were physically created. They include a brief description of what items are in each box or folder, and where they are located in the storage area(s). Placement lists aren't based on a particular order, but offer summary descriptions of the boxes as they are physically stored in the racks. In other words, a placement list accurately documents the situation as it actually is.


  • A placement list is the easiest and quickest of the four types of access to put together;
  • The list order corresponds with the boxes' physical order.


  • A lack of properly listed content makes it difficult to find specific items;
  • You do not have a structured overview of your archive or collections;
  • The list structure does not offer any context for the items and objects;
  • Descriptions that are too brief often make it difficult to know which items or objects are involved;
  • The list stops being correct if parts of the archive or collections are moved, relocated or reordered.

Placement lists are best used when an archive needs to be mapped out quickly and there isn't enough time to draw up more detailed access. They are often created to prepare for a move or transfer to another archive institution, and are especially useful for keeping track of where each archive item or object is located when a lack of internal organisation means it is not really suitable as a full inventory of your archive or collections. Placement lists are generally used as an emergency solution in lieu of something better, and can serve as a temporary access measure in anticipation of a full inventory being prepared.

A lack of internal organisation is less of a problem for small archives or collections. So if your archive is comprised of just twenty boxes or so, a placement list is often more than enough. For larger archives or collections, it's worth considering putting more a more detailed access list together.


Step 1 Assign serial numbers to all the folders and boxes in your archive, and make a clear note of these numbers on them.

Step 2 Draw up a plan for your storage area and give each rack/cabinet a unique number. You can also assign identifying numbers to each shelf. Make sure these numbers follow a certain logic so you can always find them again easily (e.g. 24.5 is the fifth shelf in cabinet 24).

Step 3 Make a note of the following basic elements for each box:

  • box number (inventory number);
  • editorial format;
  • content;
  • date;
  • location in your storage area (use the rack or shelf number for this).

This table shows exactly what the above elements contain. Make sure the descriptions in the list are in the same order as the boxes in the rack.

Tip: use Excel or similar software to keep a record of your descriptions. It is not necessary to invest in expensive archival description software. This placement list template, created in Excel, can easily do the job perfectly well.

Authors: Florian Daemen (AMVB), Wim Lowet (VAi)

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