Research Tips for Large Archival Collection Finding Aids

The size of our archival collections varies from one folder to over 3,000 boxes spanning almost 2,000 linear feet! The medium to large archives typically have finding aids, which are documents containing detailed information about collections. Our online finding aids are linked to Primo Search collection records. For very large collections, the finding aids can be also be quite massive.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when consulting online finding aids for large collections:

1. Some collections have two finding aids. When the descriptive information for a large collection is in one finding aid, it can make the document unwieldy and can be slow to load on your computer. To ease searching and management of large files of information, we may have created a separate finding aid for individual series. You can find examples of this practice with the Harald Szeemann papers, Series II. Artist Files and the Julius Shulman photography archive, Series IV. Job Numbers, 1935-2009.

2. Use the “print view” to read and search a finding aid. The print view allows you to scroll seamlessly through the contents of a finding aid. In some cases, it’s much easier to read a finding aid in this view. The print view also allows for keyword searching. To display a keyword search box use with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + F on a PC or Command ⌘ + F on a Mac.

To access the print view, click “Print View” at the top right side of your screen.

The print view with the keyword search box displayed.

3. Proceed with caution if you want to print a finding aid. Larger finding aids may be several hundreds of pages in a print format. For example, the Harald Szeemann papers finding aids are equivalent to more than 1,400 pages!

If you have any additional tips for viewing and searching finding aids that makes your research easier, please share them in the comments below. We would enjoy hearing from you!

– Sarah Sherman, Reference Librarian

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