A finding aid is a document containing detailed information about a specific collection of papers or records within an
archive. [cite web |url=http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utarms/info/glossary.html|title= UTARMS Glossary|accessdate=2007-04-25 |publisher= [http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utarms University of Toronto Archives and Records Management] ] They are used by researchers to determine whether information within a collection is relevant to their research. The finding aid for a collection is usually compiled by an archivistor librarianduring archival processing.
Finding aids are a concept dating back to ancient
Sumer's clay tabletculture. In more recent times, finding aids were usually written or, later, printed on paper. Finding aids today can be created in various electronic and print formats, including word processor document, spreadsheet, database, paper list, index cards, etc. The standard machine-readable format for manuscript collection finding aids, widely used in the United States, England, Canada, and Australia, is Encoded Archival Description. [cite web |url=http://www.loc.gov/ead/eaddev.html|title=Development of the Encoded Archival Description DTD |accessdate=2007-04-25 |publisher= [http://www.loc.gov United States Library of Congress] ]
The content of a finding aid may differ depending on the type of material it is describing. Usually, a finding aid includes a description of the scope of the collection, biographical and historical information related to the collection, and restrictions on use of or access to the materials. [cite web |url=http://www.archivists.org/glossary/term_details.asp?DefinitionKey=66|title=A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology |accessdate=2007-04-25 |publisher= [http://www.archivists.org Society of American Archivists] ] Finding aids may be detailed inventories that list contents. They may also include subject headings drawn from
LCSH, AAT, or other controlled vocabulary.
The data elements essential to finding aids were defined by the International Council on Archives [International Council on Archives [http://www.ica.org/] ] in the General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD(G)) [General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD(G)) [http://www.ica.org/en/node/30000] ] . In 2004 this was superseded in the United States by "" (2006) [Available from SAA [http://www.archivists.org/catalog/pubDetail.asp?objectID=1279] .]
* Finding aids in a historical society/private archive: [http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/ead-idx?type=simple;c=shs;view=text;subview=outline;q1=king;rgn1=Anywhere%20in%20Finding%20Aid;id=uw-whs-barr0015;rgn=summaryinfo Barron Country Probate Court Files at the Wisconsin Historical Society]
* Finding aids in a public/government library: [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/faidfrquery/F?faidfr:1:./temp/~faid_8JEi:: Edward and Clara Steuermann Collection at the Library of Congress]
* Finding aids at a university: [http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/l/langner_w.htm William Langner Papers at the Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University]
Preservation (library and archival science)
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