Anatomy of a Finding Aid
Finding aids will contain some or all of the following
A brief introduction to the collection, this section
is designed to provide enough information for evaluating the relevance
of the collection to your research interests. It contains the following:
The person, family, or organization who created or compiled the
materials. Birth and death dates for individuals may be included.
The title may include the creator's name, and will always include
the range of dates encompassed in the collection. In the title,
the term "Papers" indicates that it is the collection of an individual
or family, "Records" indicates that the collection was created by
The quantity, or extent, of the materials is given as the number
of containers and/or linear footage of materials. Understanding
the amount of materials being described is useful in planning research
The collection number is a method for identifying a particular collection.
The institution, city, and state where the collection is housed
- the place to contact with reference inquiries.
A brief description of the collection and its creator, including
people, subjects, and types of materials represented in the materials.
Terms of Access and Use
Any restrictions on viewing the materials will be noted here. More
detail on the use of the collection can be found under "Information
Biographical or Historical Note
Information about the person, family, or organization
that created the collection, in narrative and/or chronological format.
This section will cover major activities and events and highlight
areas important to understanding the collection.
Scope and Contents of the Collection
A narrative description of the materials as a whole.
Indicates the types of materials present, arrangement of the records,
and dates covered. The scope and contents note will also highlight
major topics, events, people, and places documented in the records.
A series is a unit of records that has been grouped
together based on a common function or format, or because of a relationship
arising from their creation or use. In a finding aid, the series
descriptions contain the title, dates of coverage, and a brief description
of the contents of each series. Series descriptions may also include
the range of containers, a statement of the type of arrangement,
and a note on any restrictions for each series.
A detailed listing of the folders, volumes, or other
file units found in the collection. Includes the box or box and
folder number, title of the file, and often the date range.
Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Notes regarding restrictions
on access to or use of all or part of the collection. Indicates
any special conditions regarding reproduction, publication, or quotation
of the materials. Often includes information about copyright.
Proper form to be used when citing the collection.
Indicates that copies of the materials exist
in another form (i.e. microfilm, digital images).
Additions to the Collection
Gives information on expected accruals
to the collection, if any.
History of the Collection
Information about the history of ownership,
acquisition, and processing of the materials.
Topics, personal and corporate names, and geographic
areas that have been assigned to the collection to enhance searching
May contain notes about related material found within
or outside of the archives, other finding aids that may be available
internally, or bibliographies citing works relevant to the collection.
Archival collections are one of a kind, and may require
unique descriptive information to help researchers using the materials.
Examples of other sections that may be found in these finding aids
include indexes, bibliographies, and summaries of correspondence.