How to Read a Finding Aid

A Finding Aid is a document that provides a description of an archival collection to guide people in using the collection for research.

The finding aid includes a narrative overview of the collection, with a listing of materials by series, box, folder, and/or item. It is expected to assist the researcher in determining whether or not the collection meets his or her research needs. Researchers of archival materials will encounter findings aids when looking for unpublished papers and archival collections.

  • A "finding aid" or “collection guide” or "inventory" refers to the descriptive tool, published or unpublished, printed or electronic, which explains the content and organization of a collection of archival materials.
  • Finding aids/inventories may be print or electronic, and in the form of databases, catalogs, indexes, lists, or guides.
  • A collection guide or inventory includes the name of the creator of the material, the size of the collection, biographical or historical information, the date span of the material, and a description of the contents of the collection.
  • Collections are broken down for easier navigation usually in a hierarchical format.

For examples, please check out our collection guides in ArchivesSpace.

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