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.