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Using Special Collections: Finding Aids

Anatomy of a Finding Aid

Finding aids are tools that help a user find information in a specific record group, collection, or series of archival materials.

Parts of a Finding Aid

Collection Overview

This section lists the creator of the materials in the archive, the size and extent of the collection (in boxes and linear feet), call numbers and storage locations, language(s) represented in the collection, and a brief description (abstract) of the collection contents.

Scope and Content

This section provides an overview of the types of materials in the collection.

Biographical/Historical Note

This section details the history or biographical information relating to the collection and how it was created.

Subject and Index Terms

Includes a list of terms, topics, etc. covered in the collection and usually linked to a library catalog to provide the researcher with materials in similar categories.

Collection Arrangement

Describe how the materials have been arranged. The different sections of the collection (series and subseries) organize collection content by type of material, format, topic, or some other filing system determined by the archival staff, and/or the original creator of the collection.

Administrative Note Information

If there are any restrictions placed on an archival collection, those should be noted here. Other information in this section includes how the archives received the collection, and copyright and citation notes

Related Materials

This section of the finding aid points the researcher to other items in the archives (or elsewhere) that are closely related to the collection described in the finding aid. The items may be related by origin, subject matter, etc.

Box and Folder List

Sometimes also called “container guide.” This is a box-by-box, folder-by-folder listing of the materials stored in the collection.