Finding Aid: A document describing the history of an aggregation of materials, as well as containing detailed information about the records contained therein.
Provenance: This is a fundamental principle of archives, referring to the individual, family, or organization that created or received the items in a collection. The principle of provenance or the respect des fonds dictates that records of different origins (provenance) be kept separate to preserve their context.
Original Order: The order in which records were maintained by the creator. Archivists strive to keep records in their original order to preserve context.
Accession: A discreet aggregation of materials donated by a single source at a specific time, and assigned with a specific identifier at that time.
Eg. Bob Smith donates records in 2006, and again in 2018. These are two separate accessions, identified as 2006-014 and 2018-112.
Accrual: A general term for material that is, or may be acquired by the archives. Once material has been acquired and a number assigned, it becomes an accession.
Fonds: a group of records that share the same origin or provenance and that have occurred naturally as an outgrowth of the daily workings of an agency, individual, or organization.
Collection: a group of records which does not share the same origin or provenance, but have been brought together artifically, generally based on a theme or subject.
Series: Units of files or document kept together because they: Relate to a particular subject or function or result from the same activity. Often this series structure is applied by the archivist, however it may also reflect the original way the record creator had the files organized (See Arrangement note on first page of finding aid to determine the origin of the series being applied).
Eg. Imagine that Bob was an avid bird watcher who also happens to write books about garden gnomes and was employed by the University as a grounds keeper in the 1930’s. His papers may be divided into three series: I. Bird watching ; II. Publications; III. University Work.
Subseries: A set of similar things within a larger set of similar things.
Eg. Bob’s series II. Publications may be divided into subseries by book II.a Gnomes of Rome; II.b Gnomes of North America
File: An intellectual container for related materials that will show up under a single “file title”. An intellectual file may be so large that it takes up many physical folders.
Folder: A physical container for related materials held under the same file title. Any number of folders may make up an intellectual file.
Searching Our Collections
The library catalogue will provide you with information about published material held in the Special Collections as well as a small amount of archival materials, but the vast majority of archival documents are not currently searchable through the library catalogue.
There are currently three ways to search the archival collections:
Email us or give us a call and we can help you find what you are looking for.
Archival materials are grouped into “fonds” based on the person or organization who they belonged to, and each of these fonds is described by a finding aid. These finding aids are how you discover what exactly we have in our archives.