Finding aids are tools that tell us about a collection of records and help us figure out what information the collection contains and how to find it.
Click on the tabs above for tips on finding answers using a finding aid.
Who is represented in this collection?
Answer: Look at the Collection Title for information about the general focus of the collection. In this case, the title indicates the collection is about a person, Richard J. Daley. Another section to focus on is the Organizational History or Biographical Sketch if the collection is about a person, family, or group. These sections give background information about the people and groups that are represented in the collection. You can also check the Controlled Access Headings which list the major person or group represented in the collection.
Who is responsible for the material in this collection?
Answer: The finding aid usually tells you about the Creator, the person or persons who are responsible for the objects. Some finding aids include additional information about where the collection materials originated, who else may have owned and cared for the materials, and how they came to be deposited in Special Collections. Look for this information in the Scope and Contents Note or the Administrative Information.
What is actually in this collection?
Answer: For general information about what you can expect to find in a collection, head straight to the Abstract and the Scope and Content Note. The purpose of these sections is to tell you more about the nature of the collection and how it is organized. Often they will have helpful information about what topics or formats are most common - like if a series consists almost exclusively of letters or memos. When you want to know more details look for the Inventory which shows you the contents of the collection with the most specificity that's available. Archives collections are not usually described item by item, but rather at the series, box, and folder level, however the Richard J. Daley collection is described in an Item-Level List.
What other material does this collection relate to?
Answer: Try looking at the Related Collections section to see if there are other collections, at UIC or elsewhere. Look for the Controlled Access Headings to see subject terms that relate to this collection. You may find it useful to use subject terms when searching for additional collections relevant to your topic.
Where can I find material in the collection?
Answer: The Inventory section is where you will find all of the information you need about where material is located. It is organized by series/sub-series, and tells you about the contents of each box with as much specificity as possible. A date for the material may also be given. In the Richard J. Daley collection you can find that there is a folder called “St. Patrick’s Day, 1971” in Series I, subseries1, box 101. This information about the box number and series number is what the archivists will need to know so that they can find the material and get it out for you to see.
Where is the material from?
Answer: Both the Abstract and the Scope and Content Note can tell you more about where this material might have been housed before arriving in the Archives. You can also find the Controlled Access Headings and look for any geographical locations that are mentioned as a focus of the collection.
When was this material created?
Answer: The first page of a finding aid will usually have a section for Dates which will tell you where the collection begins and ends, chronologically. There may be an added section called Bulk Dates which tell you when a majority of the material was created. The Scope and Content Note may also have additional information about what kinds of materials the collection contains for various time periods. To find out about more specific dates (for a certain series, item, etc) look at the Inventory section.
When was this material organized or modified?
Answer: In some finding aids the Administrative Information section may include indications about when material was acquired by Special Collections or when it was processed or described by archivists. If there is an Accruals section it could tell you more about when additional items were added to a collection.
How do I gain access to the material in this collection?
Answer: Some collections have special instructions for how materials may be used. Sometimes this is because material is stored at off-site facilities and boxes must be requested in advance, and other times the material may contain sensitive or confidential material. These kinds of notes appear under Restrictions on Access or Restrictions on Use. You can use the Inventory section to locate the specific materials you want, and then request them from the Archivist.
How is this material organized?
Answer: The Arrangement section will give you a general overview of how series/sub-series are organized in the collection. It may also contain a note on why this organization was chosen or how to navigate it. The Scope and Content Note may also contain information about the organization of the material in the collection. Scanning through the Inventory can also give you a good idea of how the collection is arranged.
Answer: If you have more questions about how to use a finding aid to access materials from Special Collections we would be happy to help.
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Adapted from: “Archives at Bentley” Research Guide
You can also see a list of all the finding aids for materials in UIC’s Special Collections.
Search finding aids at UIC and other Chicago-area institutions using Explore Chicago Collections.
(Remember to limit your search to University of Illinois at Chicago if you only want to see materials available here at UIC.)