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Finding – Aids And Record Description

It is the duty of an archivist to make an object of art entrusted to his care for research accessible and not hold it from others and thus prevent them from doing research. Finding-aids (or reference media or tools of discovery) give comprehensive information on all documents stored in the record-room. Compilation of reference media forms one of the main items in the record institutions’ administrative programme. We must have some sort of reference media and description of records that will give an idea to research scholars, users and other

Here are some finding-aids and record description that must be prepared by archival institutions:

1. A Handbook or Summary Guide to Archives

is very essential. A Handbook contains various types of records from various departments. It includes no detailed subjects but only those subjects given by record creating agencies. Changes made in departments must be mentioned.

A Guide is a comprehensive finding-aid to records in a repository or to records relating to some subject field. Its purpose is to provide a brief conspectus of such records which a researcher can use to determine if particular record units are relevant to his subject of enquiry.

An archivist should provide a table of contents to a Guide in which archival groups are listed by title and symbol. The archival groups may be entered separately.

The entry should contain: 3D (i) Historical information about the government agency that produces the archival group, and (ii) A description of the series within the archival group. The historical part should be clearly separated from the descriptive part.

2. Listing-Listing work is to make records in the custody of archival institutions for accessible use: Records are : (a) to make known to potential users ; (b) to facilitate scholars in searching for them; and (c) for the department to gain control over the holding of the archives.

3. Inventory-Inventory should have a reference, date and any remark necessary for it. This should be followed by an introductory note showing its origin, development or the administrative changes in the particular branch.

A record inventory is, its name implies, a stock-taking of records. It has two purposes: to provide a preliminary analysis of an archival group and to provide an initial or provisional finding -aid. It should also provide an archivist with information that is useful in the preparation of a Guide which represents a better and more refined stage in finding-aid work.

In taking stock of a group of public records, an archivist must make a list of various record-units found within a group. In an introduction to an inventory, an archivist should provide a general view of the character and content of an archival group. He should show how a group came into being by providing information about the agency that produces it, and the functions and the activities that resulted in its production.

4. Press-list-Subject-matter must be given briefly before the publication, “From, To, Date of Receipt, Date of Sending, etc.” are given in the old press-list. Now it is called Descriptive List.

5. Descriptive List-Descriptive list is the same thing as the Press-list. It is not in alphabetical order; it describes more or less the date of the letter and subject.

6. Calendar-Calendar is also a Descriptive list, but it is a precis of the whole document. It gives more information than ordinary lists. Its aim is to preserve the language as much as the language of the origin. Each individual document is to be calendared. They are always kept chronologically. Calendaring is a time-consuming procedure. It is more laborious than the other ones, so it is not in use nowadays.

If the Calendar entries are formed of a reproduction of the exact phraseology of the original document, then in that case, users prefer to have microfilm copies. The second reason is that if the calendaring is a form of paraphrasing the language, then in that case the Descriptive list can be substituted.

7. Check-list or Hand List-In it, we do not give the subject, but just the bare number, year and date and so forth. This is to know the bulk and only for the staff. All that is mentioned is about the missing documents.

8. Transfer List – It is a list of documents transferred from the record-creating agencies to the Archives. It is meant for the staff for internal use.

9. Index and Catalog – The terms are often used interchangeably, because the finding-aids to which they refer are in some respects similar. In Catalog, records are identified by providing information on their producer, their titles, the place and date of their production and their quantity. In Index, records are merely identified by symbol or by the name of the producer and only the relation of records to some subject is indicated. No biographical or bibliographical information is ordinarily provided in them.The difference between indexes and catalogs arises from the purpose they are intended to serve. Indexes are thus locating media, while catalogs are descriptive media though they may be used to locate information.

The Index-card should contain two things: (i) a subject (person, place, thing and phenomenon) on which information exists, and (a reference to records in which information on a subject exists. It may be a person index, place index and topical index. In Catalog, the information most commonly provided on a card relates to author, place, date, subject physical characteristics and location.Indexing and Cataloging are laborious and technical. They are to be arranged alphabetically and cross-reference is necessary.

10. Abstract List-It is more brief the Descriptive List. It mentions private paper collections, microfilm collections, etc. It is usually cyclostyled.

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