Finding aids are tools that describe and facilitate access to an institution’s records and manuscript collections. Some are very basic -- inventories, container lists, bibliographies. Some are detailed descriptive aids that provide a significant amount of information about a collection. The University Archives contains a variety of finding aids to help researchers use Holy Family’s historical records for their research.
Currently, archivists are focusing on basic aids for unprocessed collections, while gradually preparing detailed descriptive finding aids a few at a time. Basic finding aids make it possible for archivists to provide access to records in a timely manner. They are especially helpful for researchers who already have sufficient information about the records they need. Descriptive finding aids, while requiring much more preparation time and effort, help researchers to understand and use a collection of historical records by providing contextual information about the individuals or organizations that created the records as well as information about the records themselves. They describe the relevant intellectual content of the records -- subjects, people, organizations, and time periods that the records document. Typically, they include a biographical or administrative history of the person or organization, information about the physical characteristics of the records, such as the extent or quantity of the records, specific formats and genres (correspondence, photographs, diaries, etc.) that are in the collection, and possibly the physical condition of materials. Descriptive finding aids include an overview of the arrangement of the collection. Finally, most provide a container list of the collection as well.