Definitions for commonly used terms
- Processing: involves sorting and arranging the materials in a collection; applying preservation measures where needed, and writing a finding aid with a detailed container list.
Unprocessed, or partially processed, collections usually have a rough box list but are often more difficult to use since materials may not be in folders or clearly labelled; materials may not be arranged in any particular order; and some items may be fragile or deteriorated.
- Finding aid: a tool for describing and facilitating access to archival and manuscript collections. A finding aid (sometimes called an Inventory or Register), helps researchers to understand and use a collection by providing information about its physical characteristics (quantity, types of materials); describing its intellectual content (the primary topics, people, organizations, and time periods that the collection documents); and giving background information about the individuals or organizations that created the papers or records. A finding aid also provides an overview of the arrangement with a box and folder listing.
Finding aids for most of our open collections are available online and searchable in the Five College Finding Aids Database. These inlcude brief finding aids (without container lists) for unprocessed collections that are open to research.