Archival Control Systems

Arrangement and control of records

While books in most libraries are arranged in subject order, records in a government archives are arranged in the same order in which they were received from the government agency that created or used them. Records are not identified by their subject but by who made them or used them. The arrangement of records - by their origin - is called their provenance.

When searching for records in the State Records collection using our catalogue ArchivesSearch, or our finding aids, you will encounter a range of archival control symbols. Each control symbol represents an agency, series, consignment, unit or item.

Our collection is managed using two systems of arrangement and control:

  • Record Group System
  • Record Series System

The Record Group System

Records transferred to State Records under the Record Group System are controlled by:

  • Government Record Group (GRG) - for State Government Agencies
  • Municipal Record Group (MRG) - for Local Government Authorities

Under this system, a unique control number - GRG or MRG – is allocated to the government agency that created, received or used the records. For example GRG 78 is the now defunct Hospitals Department and predecessors.

The Record Group System was superseded by the Series System in 1982 but you will still see records arranged by this earlier system on ArchivesSearch.


A series is a group of records that were created for the same purpose and kept together when held by the agency. A series can be one item or many items. Most South Australian government agencies arrange their records into series.

Under the Record Group System, each series is allocated a number which when combined with the agency number, becomes its reference number. For example, GRG 78/49 is the Admission Registers for the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Series System

The Series System is based on the Commonwealth Record Series (CRS) system, which was developed by the National Archives of Australia in the 1960s. The system documents government agencies and the series they create.

An agency is a distinct body that has responsibility for carrying out administrative functions of State and Local Governments. When an agency transfers records to State Records, they are allocated a government agency (GA) number. For example, GA 1484 is the agency Lenswood Primary School.

Each series under the Series System is allocated a Government Record Series (GRS) number. For example, GRS 10033 is the series Lenswood Primary School - Admission Registers.


A consignment comprises units or record items belonging to a single record series and transferred to the custody of State Records as part of one series. A consignment may comprise the whole or only part of a series. A separate consignment number is allocated for each transfer of that series. For example, GRS 10033/1 is the first consignment of admission registers for Lenswood Primary School.

Note: The term 'consignment' was not used in the Record Group System. When using ArchivesSearch to find records, please enter '0' as the consignment ID for GRG and MRG numbers.


A unit is a physical storage unit used by State Records to store records and to provide physical control over them. A unit may be a box, bundle, plan press drawer, tube etc, containing individual record Items. A unit may also be a single volume. Each unit has a physical location within the State Records repository. You can order units for viewing at the Research Centre.

The unit ID number is quoted in conjunction with the series ID and the consignment ID. For example, for unit 478 from consignment 1 of GRS 24, the unit ID is quoted as GRS 24/1 unit 478.

Note: The series is the basic unit of archival arrangement. Every unit is not individually described in ArchivesSearch.


An item is a single recordkeeping item that exists as a discrete entity. An item could be a group of folios fastened together to form a file, a single volume, card, map, photograph, film, sound recording or any other document. Within a series there may be only one record item or there may be several thousand or more. You can order items for viewing at the Research Centre.

The identifier for an item may be a file number, a name or a combination of both. For example, for item 145/1885 from GRS 24/1 unit 478, the item is quoted as GRS 24/1 unit 478 item 145/1885.

Note: The series is the basic unit of archival arrangement. Every item is not individually described in ArchivesSearch.

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