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Finding Guides Overview

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Finding guides are descriptive tools. They represent the most direct way to gain access into archival records for they outline the physical and intellectual control placed on the records in a given record group or collection. When using a standard finding guide, researchers will want to utilize its five major sections, as listed below, in order to identify the records they wish to consult.

Administrative History/Biographical Sketch

The administrative history/biographical sketch provides a history of the organization or individual that created or accumulated the records described in the finding guide. A biographical sketch will highlight the life and activities of the person or family that generated the records. An administrative history will focus on the structure and functional responsibilities of an office or administrative unit, and will note how administrative changes resulted in the transfer of functions to different offices or units.

Scope and Content Note

Scope and content notes provide a narrative description of the materials in the collection or group, detailing their function and use, and the kinds and types of information contained therein. The scope and content note will identify those specific documents or series that may be of particular interest to the researcher, but will also note where gaps or deficiencies may exist in the record.

Series Descriptions

Series descriptions consist of a written analysis describing the levels of hierarchical control for the group or collection, and provide the date span, volume, and a description of the contents for each specific unit of records.


The inventory is a full box and folder listing of the record group or collection. It will contain the title of the subgroup, series, or subseries stored in each container, as well as the inclusive dates and folder headings of the material contained therein.

Unprocessed Accessions List

The unprocessed accessions list provides a brief description of the accession(s) received by the College Archives for the specified record group or collection, but not yet processed or integrated into the main body of records. In some cases, a preliminary inventory of the records is included. Some records may require review by the Archivist for access restrictions.

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