The Finding Aids to Manuscript and Archival Collections Digital Collection will hold all of the finding aids, inventories, and guides to manuscript and archival collections in the Department of Special and Area Studies Collections.

Currently, all finding aids are here. Finding aids can be searched using the search form. Alternatively, patrons may wish to browse a complete list of the finding aids arranged by collection name, by subject, or by collecting unit  (e.g., Belknap Performing Arts, University Archives, P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, etc.). A large majority of these finding aids also have been described in the University's online catalog. Please note that a small percentage of our finding aids currently are not available online. If you are unable to locate or view a collection finding aid, please contact us for assistance.

What is a finding aid?

Finding aids are descriptive tools such as guides, inventories, or catalogs, which are used to describe archival records and manuscript collections. Typically, a finding aid provides information about the creator, origin, scope, content, format, date range, and arrangement of the papers or records. Often, the finding aid includes a detailed container list that provides information about the folders or items in the collection. Most collections are described at the folder level, rather than at the item level. In addition to the container list, other common elements of the finding aid include:

  • Collection Information - Title of the collection, date span, and name of the person, family, or organization responsible for the creation of the papers or records. Also, the extent of the collection is provided as a container count or as a measurement of linear/cubic feet.
  • Biographical/Historical Note - Biographical summary or organizational history, written as a narrative statement and/or a chronological listing, which establishes a context for the papers or records.
  • Scope and Content Note - A description of the collection, detailing its content, formats, and use. Generally, this note includes the most significant persons, organizations, events, and subjects represented by the collection.
  • Administrative Information - Information about how the collection was acquired, how it was processed and by whom, the arrangement of the material, and any access or use restrictions.
  • Series Descriptions - Some collections are organized into discrete sections according to function or format of the records (such as Outgoing Correspondence, News Clippings, or Meeting Minutes). These discrete sections, or series, often have their own scope and content notes describing the contents.

It should be noted, however, that finding aids come in numerous shapes and sizes. Just as no two collections are exactly the same, finding aids rarely share all of the same components. Larger collections, for example, often have series descriptions and container lists, while small collections may not require any description beyond the Scope and Content Note.

Keep in mind that finding aids can only go so far in pointing out relevant sources for your research. Departmental staff members are familiar with these collections and can assist you in identifying useful archival records or manuscript collections.