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Guide to Archival Research

A guide on using archival materials held in the University Archives

Glossary of Archives and Records Terminology

Archives use terminology that may be unfamiliar to new researchers. If you are doing any kind of archival research, there are a few terms you should familiarize yourself with:  

Arrangement: The organization and sequence of items within a fonds or collection. Check the How is Archival Material Organized? page for a diagram that illustrates archival arrangement.

Collection: A group of documents of any provenance that is intentionally assembled based on subject, form, geographic scope, or some other common characteristic.

Finding Aid: – 1. A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records. – 2. A description of records that helps users gain access to and understand a fonds or collection of archival materials.

Fonds: The entire body of records of an organization, family, or individual that have been created and accumulated as the result of an organic process. 

Provenance: – 1. The origin or source of something. – 2. Information regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of an item or group of items.

Reference Code: The unique identifier for a given item or group of items. This code is usually required when accessing archival materials on-site in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room.


Additional Glossaries