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What Is a Finding Aid?

The RIAMCO website is a collection of online finding aids. A finding aid, or collection guide, provides you with the information you need to determine if a collection contains the types of materials you need for your research. The purpose of the finding aid is to describe a collection’s context, materials, associated collections, and other such information. To make this information more digestible, the finding aids in RIAMCO are divided into seven, sometimes eight, distinct sections.

Collection Overview

(view example)

  • Identification of collection: collection title, collection number, date range, language and creator of the materials, and abstract of collection’s contents
  • Size (or extent) of collection – 1 linear foot = 1 Banker’s box
  • Name of repository housing the materials


Scope & Content Note

(view example)
The Scope and Content offers you the information you need to determine if a collection will be of use to you. It describes:

  • Types of material are found in the collection
  • Significant components of the collection
  • How the collection is organized, or what order may have been imposed by the creator
  • Avenues of research that might be supported by the collection
  • Relationships or connections that may exist with other archival collections



(view example)
Informs you about the way the materials are organized – usually explaining the Series and Subseries into which the materials are divided (see glossary)


Biographical/Historical note

(view example)

  • Context for the collection: Who created the collection? Why? When?
  • Historical and/or biographical information about the creator of the materials


Access & Use

(view example)

  • How much notice is needed to access materials for you
  • Any possible restrictions on the materials (see glossary)
  • Preferred citation for the collection should you use it in your publication or project
  • Contact information for the repository that houses the collection


Administrative Information

(view example)
Includes various components depending on the collection:

  • Acquisition statement: Who gave the materials to the repository? When? Under what conditions?
  • Accruals: Will there be any further additions to this collection?
  • Author of the finding aid: the person who wrote the scope and content note, the biographical note, and other components of the finding aid


Additional Information

This section is not present in every finding aid, as it is not always needed. It offers:

  • Information about associated collections located within the repository
  • Location information for related collections at other repositories



(view example)
The inventory functions as a roadmap to the collection. It generally offers at minimum:

  • Series and subseries titles (see glossary) with brief descriptions of the materials within the series or subseries
  • A description of the materials located in each box within the collection
  • Occasionally, a list of the folder titles within a box