Skip to main content

Library Restart Dashboard

Library Restart Dashboard
Learn more about updates to library services

We are here to help

Contact Us

Women's History Research in Archives : Researching in Archives

How to research women's history in archival sources

Archival Collections

MATERIALS IN CONTEXT

Archives keep records and papers together in groups based on who created them. Keeping collections together by creator preserves the context of the materials.

ORGANIZED BY CREATORS

To find materials relevant to your research topic, ask yourself, "Who would have created records or papers that addressed this topic?" and search the catalog.

Using Archival Catalogs

  • Search using keywords, subjects, names, and dates like in Library catalogs
  • Each catalog entry will represent a collection
  • Note the size of the collection and how much space it spans
  • Look for a finding aid for more details in folders, boxes, and about the collection
  • There may be some access restrictions on the collection or more undescribed materials
  • Note the location and box number of materials in order to request they be retrieved or "paged"

Parts of a Finding Aid

GENERAL COLLECTION INFO
  • Catalog style
  • Who or what created the records with their dates
  • Dates covered and when the "bulk" of them date from
  • Major subjects included
  • Shelf space the collection occupies in feet, meters or boxes

SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE

  • Narrative style
  • A summary description of the collection
  • Types of materials i.e. letters, diaries, minutes, photos, reports etc.
  • Major subjects the collection covers and subjects unexpectedly not covered
  • How the records are grouped and ordered

BIO OR ORG HISTORY

  • Narrative style
  • History of the collection's creator
  • Provides context for the collection

CONTENTS LIST

  • List style
  • List of numbered boxes and folders in the collection with descriptive titles
  • Arranged by conceptual groupings
  • Subgroupings indented or nested

What is a Finding Aid?

Finding aids describe cataloged collections more in-depth. Use the finding aid to investigate if a relevant collection really has what you are looking for and which boxes or folders those materials are located in so you can take a look at them.

SYNONYMS

Contents List, Box List, Register, Invetory and Calendar are all sometimes used as synonyms for Finding Aid.