Because archival and manuscript materials are different from books and periodicals (see Using Archival Materials), specialized methods have been developed to act the way an index or table of contents would in a book.
The key to locating items in these collections is through a “finding aid.”
As the name implies, the finding aid helps researchers find relevant collections, and then identify the specific materials they need within the collection.
Each finding aid provides information about the creation and historical context of a collection, explains how it is organized, and outlines its contents, so that you can identify and request the materials relevant to your research.
You will need to come to the University Archives to view the actual collections, since they collections do not circulate and in most cases their contents are not digitized.
Most finding aids provide the following information:
For many more details about the parts of a finding aid, see http://tinyurl.com/3m4kcgc
See your style guide (Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, or other) for the approved format for “Unpublished materials,” but if you get the following information you’ll be set for all purposes:
Description and date of item; box/folder location; collection title; series or call number; repository name; repository city/state/country
Hurston to Herskovits, Nov 12 1934; Box 12, folder 5, Melville J Herskovits Papers (Series 35/6); Northwestern University Archives, Evanston IL
Finding the Primary Sources You Need
1. Make your plans…
2. Before you visit
check the website or (better yet) contact the archives by phone or email to determine:
3. Make Best Use of Your Time during Your Visit
If you can’t go to the Archives in person…