Finding Aids


A finding aid, in the context of archival science, is an organization tool, a document containing detailed, indexed, and processed metadata and other information about a specific collection of records within an archive. Finding aids often consist of a documentary inventory and description of the materials, their source, and their structure. The finding aid for a fond is usually compiled by the collection's entity of origin, provenance, or by an archivist during archival processing, and may be considered the archival science equivalent of a library catalog or a museum collection catalog. The finding aid serves the purpose of locating specific information within the collection. The finding aid can also help the archival repository manage their materials and resources. The history of finding aids mirrors the history of information. Ancient Sumerians had their own systems of indexes to locate bureaucratic and administrative records. Finding aids in the 19th and 20th centuries were paper documents, such as lists or index cards. In the 21st century, they can be created in electronic formats like spreadsheets or databases. The standard machine-readable format for manuscript collection finding aids, widely used in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and elsewhere, is Encoded Archival Description.

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