Even though archives are often thought of as raw and unmediated materials, a lot actually goes into arranging them for researchers. Understanding how archives are arranged will help you to be a more efficient researcher.
Large archival collections are usually described in Finding Aids. A finding aid describes where an archival collection came from, gives a synoposis of the creator's history, and provides an inventory of the collection. This is an example of the "Collection Contents" section of a Finding Aid:
Small archival collections may not have finding aids. They may only be described in basic inventories. Most of Goucher's archival sources are described in a simple list. Note that again, there is only very basic information about the collections.
For more information on archival theory and practices, see this Practical Guide for Researchers from the National Library & Archives of Canada.
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