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Finding Aids FAQ

See a video about finding aids and how to use them.

Finding aids are similar to a library search system (catalog), only instead of searching for books, they allow you to search for archival materials, including manuscript collections, university archives, and oral history interviews. A finding aid describes the contents of an archival collection and can provide contextual information that helps explain the collection’s significance. A finding aid usually provides a listing of materials found in an archival collection including their location (box numbers).

Collections are groups of materials assembled by a person, family, organization, institution, or repository. 

Enter your search term(s) in the "Find Archives" search bar. 

There are several different way to refine your initial search and/or filter your search results:

  • To the right of each search line, there is a dropdown that says Keyword. Leaving this set to Keyword will search for your term anywhere in the results, and changing this to one of the other options (Title, Creator, or Notes) will limit your search to only that field in the results.  You can also add a date range to your search using the From and To fields to the right of the dropdowns. 
  • Once you’ve done a search and are on the search results page, you can use the filter pane on the right side of the page to further limit and customize search results.
    • You can use the filter pane to filter by repository, record type, subject, and name.
  • If viewing a single collection, you can keyword search and limit by date range via the search fields on the right of the screen above "Navigate the Collection."

  • The "Collection Overview" page is the default view. It provides a description of the collection, as well as things like dates covered in the material, the extent (how much physical space it takes on the shelf in the Archives) of the collection, conditions governing use of the materials, or copyright statements.
  • The "Navigate the Collection" sidebar on the right of the screen tells you how the page that you are currently viewing fits into the larger collection. The sidebar will allow you to navigate through the different levels of the collection quickly and easily. Use the black arrow to expand a series and see any sub-series or files included in it. Click on the item you want to view to be taken to that page.
  • The "Finding Aid view" page provides a breakdown of each record included in a collection.  This shows each record in a hierarchy, going from Collection to Series to Sub-Series to File.  Click on any of the items listed to view more details about that part of the collection.
  • The "Box List" page provides descriptions of what is included in each container in the collection.  Collections are housed in folders inside of boxes. Clicking on a box allows you to see what folders and materials are in it.

The Print button in the upper right of the screen will generate a PDF of the finding aid you’re currently viewing. Note: Longer finding aids can take several minutes to generate a PDF.

Please see the Schedule an Appointment page on the Special Collections and University Archives webpage. 

No -- our finding aids include descriptions of manuscript and archival collections as well as oral history interviews, but they do not include all materials maintained by Atkins Library Special Collections. There are unprocessed archival collections that have not yet been entered into the system. And they do not include descroiptions of rare books and government documents, which can be found by searching the library search system (catalog)

Only a small portion of the archival collections are available to view online. When possible, links have been added from the finding aids to digital content (which is kept in Goldmine, our digital repository).

Materials that are available to view online are linked from the finding aid via a digital object record. These records often just contain a title and a link to the digital content held in Goldmine, our digital repository. Digital object records look similar to archival object records and both contain a red box with a link to the material online.