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WHAT IS A FINDING AID?

Most of our finding aids are Registers.  A register is a description of the contents in a record group (in the case of institutional records) or manuscript group (in the case of personal papers).  The records being described are usually divided  into series.  "A series is a body of records filed together because of a connection arising out of their creation or use.  A series of records may be a body of records organized into a single integrated filing system or it may be a group of records of a single physical type filed together such as reports, ledgers or news releases, or it may be a group of diverse types of records kept together because they relate to a particular function or activity.  Each series description contains a title, lists the inclusive dates, quantity and series number and contains information on the physical type of records, the functions and activities to which the records relate, the subjects and persons covered, the arrangement of the records, any finding aids such as lists and indexes which may exist and finally the series numbers of any related records.  The quantity of records in each series is indicated by the amount of linear space on the shelf and the number of folders or document cases it occupies.  A document case is a cardboard vertical file container with a five inch storage width, 10 1/4 inch height and a length of 12 1/4 inches for letter size folders or 15 1/4 inches for legal size folders." --From James K. Owens, comp., Averell Harriman: An Inventory of His Gubernatorial Papers in the the Syracuse University Library, Manuscript Inventory Series, Inventory No. 10, Mar. 1967 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Library, 1967).

The descriptive elements of a register are:

  • Biographical/ Historical Note gives the researcher historical information about the originator of the record/manuscript group.
  • Scope and Content Note describes the origin, amount, kind, and condition of material contained, or not contained, in the  record/manuscript group. The Scope and Content Note also describes the arrangement of the records within the collection and  gives details of the subject matter contained within the records.
  • Series Description details the subject matter, organization, and types of documents that are found within the series.
  • Box and Folder Title List contains the folder titles of the records within their specific box in the collection.  Each folder is given a specific number.  By using the box and folder number, researchers are able to access specific records within the collection.

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