Archival Arrangement

The Basics of Archival Arrangement & Description

Archivists organize and describe materials using the principle of provenance; which means that all the materials produced by a certain institution, office, or person are grouped together. Think about which institution and which individual is apt to have collected records in your research areas (e.g., Jim Dyer served on the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee in the Colorado Legislature for ten years, so his collection should be useful if you're studying ranching in this region). Browsing books and collections are two different ball games; the researcher must think "provenance" when looking for materials in archival collections. Things to note about archival collections:

  • Most archival records were produced for some practical immediate purpose other than your research needs. Think creatively about how to use those records.
  • Archival materials are grouped in Records Groups or Series. All of an institution's records that pertain to the same function are filed together (e.g., you'll find all the College's old yearbooks in the same place).
  • Subject access can be problematic; use the Library of Congress Subject Headings to search by the same words the catalogers used.
  • For a detailed understanding of how the Center arranges and describes its special collections, please see the Archives Procedure Manual.

Resources for Understanding Archival Arrangement & Description


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