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Special Collections : Archival Collections

Special Collections is the rare book facility for Walker Library. Its mission is to acquire, preserve, and provide access to valuable, unique, and fragile materials.

Archives in Special Collections

Special Collections has a growing collection of archival material.   To access our archival material, you will need to use a finding aid.  This page provides some basic instruction on using finding aids, as well as access to them.  

Special Collections staff are available to answer questions and assist researchers on using our finding aids and locating archival materials in our collections. 

Using our archival collections: Finding Aids

In our online catalog, you may encounter a reference to something called a finding aid. A finding aid is a detailed document prepared by archivists or librarians that informs researchers about an archival or manuscript collection. It provides more information than a library or database catalog record. The finding aid tells you what you can expect if you choose to conduct research within that collection.

The finding aid gives researchers an understanding of

  • who created the records,
  • why they were created,
  • how they were created, and
  • how they are organized.
  • The finding aid discusses the collection as a whole. 
  • A finding aid is a useful tool to help you figure out if a collection has materials in it that might be relevant to your research question, and where in the collection those materials might be.

It is important to review the finding aid before you go to the archive in person to consult a collection. It is not necessary to read it from beginning to end, like an article.

Some of our finding aids are available online through the catalog and others are available through our webpage and LibGuide. You might have questions about the collection or the finding aid. We are available to assist you in understanding the finding and the collection.  You may stop in to Special Collections in-person or ask your question via email. 

Finding Aids