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University at Buffalo Libraries

Archival & Manuscript Collections

About UB Finding Aids

Finding aids are guides to collections of archival records, personal papers, or manuscripts in various formats. They describe the origin of a collection, its contents, and its organization at different levels of detail depending upon the nature of collection. The Finding Aids for collections in the University Libraries have been standardized to include the following components:

  • Title Page: title of finding aid, collection number, repository (the library holding the collection) and its address, publication date, etc.
  • Collection Overview: title of collection, range of dates of collection, collection number, creator of collection, physical description of collection, repository (the library holding the collection) name, and an abstract.
  • Administrative Information: acquisition information, form of preferred citation, restrictions to physical access, copyright concerns, whether the collection is open to more receipts, speclal location information, processing information, etc.
  • Biographical or Historical Note: sometimes lengthy background about the creator of the collection and its context. May include a chronology.
  • Scope and Content Note: a prose description of the collection contents.
  • Arrangement: collections are usually divided into sections called series. The arrangement note describes the series and how they are arranged (alphabetically, chronologically, etc.)
  • Container List: the actual inventory of the collection. This varies depending on the type of collection and is created with the needs of the researcher in mind. It may be very broad or described at the item level. It should allow the user to specify boxes, folders, or items they need rather than needing to see the entire collection.
  • Search Terms: these are terms from sets of controlled vocabulary that describe the subject content of the collection, additional contributors, and genres or formats in the collection.
  • Associated Material: may include information about items removed from the collection, a bibliography, an index, other finding aids, and other related materials, such as in-house collections or subject-related collections at other institutions.