Q: Are the archival materials described in the finding aids available
A: The finding aids are just descriptions of the material. For the most part, the material itself is not available online at this time.
Q: Is the database of finding aids complete? Is there a finding aid for
every archival collection at the U of M Libraries?
A: No. About 75% of our archival collections are described by finding aids, though we are working on more all the time. The collections also include material such as books, audio-visual material, photographs, and periodicals which are not described in finding aids.
Some of the books, periodicals and AV materials are cataloged in MNCAT, the University Libraries online catalog. Always consult with the archives unit for information about materials not in the finding aids or MNCAT.
Q: I have identified some material I would like to see. How do I
A: Contact the repository which holds the material. See http://special.lib.umn.edu/.
Q: Can I get photocopies?
A: In most cases photocopies are available within the limits of U.S. Copyright law. Some of the original materials in these collections are too fragile to be copied, and other materials have restriction on copying. Check with archives staff for information.
Q: Can I get digital scans?
A: In most cases, within the limits of U.S. Copyright Law, material can be scanned for a reasonable fee. Note that permission to publish or re-use material must be sought from the holding repository.
Q: What is Encoded Archival Description (EAD)?
A: EAD is a standard used to format archival finding aids using XML. It allows finding aids to be easily, searched, reformatted and shared. The University of Minnesota Libraries began implementing EAD for archival finding aids in 2004. More information on EAD at the U of M Libraries
Q: What is a finding aid?
A: A finding aid is a guide to a group of archival records, personal papers, or manuscripts. It may be a brief summary or a detailed description and inventory. The finding aid describes the origin, extent, dates, contents, important topics, and organization of the records. It is a tool to help researchers determine if the records contain material of interest to them and exactly where that material is located. Unlike a library catalog record, which describes a single published book or periodical, archival finding aids describe groups of unpublished, unique "primary source" documents. Some finding aids also include information on individual items that are of particular interest or importance. Finding aids may be print or electronic. They may present information in one or more of the following forms: written narratives, databases, catalogs, indexes, and lists.
Q: How do I make sense of the information in a finding aid?
A: Finding aids are usually structured in a hierarchical manner. The information at the beginning of the document is summary information about the entire collection described in that finding aid. Usually you will see the title of the collection, the date span of the material, the amount of material, and some background information such as a historical or biographical note and a narrative description (sometimes called a "scope and content note"). Often the finding aid will include a more detailed contents list that shows what is in each box and folder. These lists may break the collection down into sections known as "series." A series may contain one or more sub-series of folders. These hierarchical levels are usually indicated by using indentations.