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Searching in Archival Collections


This page will discuss the typical collection page: what information you can glean about the materials and how to navigate it. It will also show you how to generate that same information as a single document -- a Finding Aid -- for reading online or printing.

How You Access Materials

A Finding Aid is a document that helps the user understand a collection -- what it contains, who created it, and how it's arranged. 

The Finding Aid lists the box numbers for all materials in the collection. It will also give the collection name + number, which are generally important to know when requesting materials.

The Online Finding Aid: Collection Info

1. In modern online search interfaces like ours, you search and see the underlying data about the collection, information that once would have been shared in a paper or electronic Finding Aid. This is an example.

2. Here's another example. The collection's main page features a lot of descriptions, including a Scope/Contents Note, which explains what's in the collection, and a Biographical/Historical Note, which tells you about the people that created the materials and anything else you need to know about the collection's context.

3. Look for the See more > link, which expands these descriptions if they're too long for the initial display.

4. Here's a full length Scope/Content Note.

5. You can also click on Expand to see more information about the collection.

6. Here, you can see how this collection was arranged and what subject headings apply, in addition to other info.

The Online Finding Aid: Collection Organization

1. Click on Collection Organization (in the blue bar near the top of the page) to see how the materials are organized.

2. This collection isn't very big, so its arrangement isn't complicated.

3. This collection is much larger, so its structure is more complex. In fact, with a collection like this, you may want to use the filter box to search within the collection.

4. Here, we filtered for "baseball."

Printing a Finding Aid

If you'd rather have this collection information formatted as a Finding Aid (a single document), the interface allows you to generate one that you can save and/or print. Look for the PDF icon in the top right corner of any collection page:

Info You Need to Request Materials

To access materials at our repository, you need to know the collection name and number + the box number(s) you want to see -- here's an example of where that info is in the online interface: