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What is a finding aid?
The Library of Congress defines a finding aid as follows:
Archival institutions...routinely create detailed inventories, registers, indexes, and guides that describe the collections of primary source material under their control. These descriptive access tools, commonly called archival finding aids, provide more complete information about a collection than you will find in the Library of Congress' online catalogs. Finding aids often provide information about a collection's provenance and the conditions under which it may be accessed or copied; biographical or organizational histories related to the collection; a note describing the scope and content of the collection; and progressively detailed descriptions of the parts or components of the collection together with the corresponding call numbers, container numbers, or other means for researchers to identify and request the physical entities of interest to them.
The Society of American Archivists offers a briefer definition:
n. ~ 1. A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records. – 2. A description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials.
It elaborates further by saying:
Finding aid1 includes a wide range of formats, including card indexes, calendars, guides, inventories, shelf and container lists, and registers. – Finding aid2 is a single document that places the materials in context by consolidating information about the collection, such as acquisition and processing; provenance, including administrative history or biographical note; scope of the collection, including size, subjects, media; organization and arrangement; and an inventory of the series and the folders.
Essentially a finding aid allows you, the patron, to more easily identify collections (and documents within a collection) that are of the most interest to you. With our collection of historical documents relating to Franklin Township it is our hope that the online presence of finding aids will aid in any research endeavours you might explore at our institution.
How to read a finding aid.
Given the the unique nature of archival collections finding aids are organized quite differently from bibliographic and catalog records. Typically speaking findings aids are organized into the following component sections:
- Descriptive Summary
- This is a general overview of the collection being described by a findinding aid. It typically lists the title of a collection, the repository or institution currently holding the records, the creator (the individual or group responsible for generating the items in the collection), the dates (typically expressed in a range) covered by the collection, the quantity of material (expressed either in number of boxes or linear feet), an abstract or brief overview of the collection, a number or symbol used to identify the collection, and the language(s) used in the collection.
- Historical/Biographical Note
- The historical note typically details the means through which the items in the collection were generated. Biographical information about the individual(s) mentioned in, or who authored, the collection or historical information about the company, organization, or institution responsible for creating the records.
- Scope and Content Note
- This section gives a brief overview of the conents of the collection. It often includes relevent dates used in the collection. The types of materials (letter, speeches, etc.) contained in the collection and often basic subject information.
- Arrangement Note
- Descibes the method in which the records are organized. Most often collections are identified by seperate series representically thematically linked documents within the collection. Most arrangement notes contain a list of series.
- Name and Subject Headings
- Relevent subject terms and the names of both individuals and organization are listed here.
- The bulk of a finding aid is typically represented by the contents or box list. Here each series is described. Each series, like the collection itself, is described by a note on arrangement and a summary of the materials located in the series. This is followed by a list of boxes and folders (or occaisonally sub-seroes) where materials can be found.
Collections at Franlin Township Public Library
- Records of the Pleasant Plains Cemetery Association
- The records of the Pleasant Plain Cemetary Association contain documents pertaining to the upkeep and maintence of cemetery grounds and maps of burial plots. A large amount of the materials deal with the association's incorporation in 1950 and contains the records and correspondence involved in undertaking this endeavor. In addition to materials generated by the association there are also a fair number of newsclipping collected by members about the cemetary.