Monday, November 9, 2015

Finding aids

Reference finding aids
  • Finding aids
    • Assist in the retrieval of information contained in archival holdings
    • Facilitate efficient management of the repository
  • Descriptive principles for development of finding aids
    • Principle of Provenance: identifies the fonds as the primary unit of description
    • Principle that description proceeds from the general to the specific: identifies that archives must be identified as a whole before describing the parts, i.e. complete a brief description of each fonds before describing each series or file in a fonds in more detail
  • Each finding aid should include the accession number of archival material being described (accession # the primary method of administrative control)
  • Make 3 copies for safekeeping
    • One for reference area
    • One for storage area
    • One with accession record (security copy)
    • Can make additional copy for offsite storage
Type of finding aids
  • Repository guide/Guide to holdings
    • Includes a brief fonds level description of each fonds listed in alphabetical order by title
    • Description of each fonds prepared according to RAD and includes title, dates of creation, physical description, archival description, and notes
    • University of Manitoba. Archives & Special Collections. Archives & Special Collections’ Holdings. 
  • Descriptive inventory
  • Summary inventory
    • Also called a series inventory or title inventory, includes only terse descriptions of the materials. A summary inventory may be made for materials with very technical form or contents, which would require extensive description to adequately capture the nuance difference. There are also made for collections of homogenous materials, in which details would be redundant.
    • SAA: A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology
    • Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Kane Bergthaler Mennonite Church fonds
Administrative finding aids
  • Accession register
    • Designed to establish control over material as it enters the archives. It is intended largely as an internal administrative document. However, it does contain elements of description and in some situations, particularly small volunteer managed archives, it may be the only finding aid available to researchers.
    • Sample Accession Record
  • Location list/Location index/Location register
    • The location list includes the accession number, box number and the location code that identifies the physical location in the building where the records are stored
    • Many archives do not include the storage location of materials in finding aids used by the general public. Restricting this information adds one more layer of security. When a patron requests materials, reference staff use a location index to determine where the material is stored so that it can be pulled.
Subject indexing
  • Most common types of indexes used in archives are name, subject and form indexes
  • In archives, there is little agreement about which controlled vocabularies, if any, are appropriate for providing access points to archival records
  • Examples of thesauri for archives include:
    • The British Columbia Thesaurus
    • See also Thesauri and Controlled Vocabularies section of CAIN Resources for additional titles
Name indexing and authority files
  • Authority file
    • A compilation of records which describe the preferred form of headings for use in a catalog, along with cross references for other forms of headings
    • Authority files may be lists, card catalogs, databases, or printed publications
    • For individuals, the authority file lists full name, birth and death dates, and alternate names
    • For organizational names, the authority file lists the preferred name for each organization, and also lists the history of name changes. Sources that document changes can also be noted
Indexing guidelines
  • Before beginning an indexing programme, have completed accession records, a repository guide of fonds level descriptions, and inventories for large or significant fonds. Subject terms and name authority files can be created during the description of each new accession
  • Select the thesaurus your Archives will use to establish a controlled vocabulary for the selection of subject terms
  • Create and maintain a name authority file to control al names used in the index
  • Maintain a manual that documents all changes to your indexing system. Note, for example, when a new subject was added to the list
  • Keep your index up to date. If you are unable to maintain it, perhaps it is too complex
  • Develop or expand your indexing programme in relation to your time, money, facilities, and priorities
Encoded archival description (EAD)
  • Society of American Archivists standard (maintained by Library of Congress) for encoding multilevel finding aids
  • Extensible markup language (XML) based but compatible with standard generalized markup language (SGML)
  • Developed in U.S. but now international
  • Designed specifically for marking up information contained in archival finding aids
  • Further information under Encoded Archival Description
  • Sample Canadian use of EAD
  • Tutorial: an over-the-shoulder view of an archivist at work. In: Introduction to Archival Organization and Description: Access to Cultural Heritage. Getty Information Institute. 1998.

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