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Guide to the Schomburg Center's Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division: Using Finding Aids

This guide is designed to help new researchers get comfortable conducting research in the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Finding Aids

Finding Aids, sometimes called inventories or guides, are written guides that summarize and describe archival collections. Finding aids are designed to help you navigate archival collections to locate materials pertinent to your topic. They serve as "the map to the collection."

Please keep in mind that finding aids are not exhaustive.

If you have more questions about a collection after consulting the finding aid, you can reach out to with your question and we will get back to you as soon as possible. 

Parts of a Finding Aid

Finding aids are typically made up of a few main parts:

  • Collection Overview
  • Abstract or Scope and Content
  • Biographical Note
  • Historical Note
  • Subject and Index Terms
  • Collection Arrangement
  • Box and Folder List
  • Administrative Note Information

Accessing Finding Aids

In many cases, archival finding aids for the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books division of the Schomburg Center will be available through the Archives Portal.

When you locate a collection in the Archives Portal, click on the "Detailed Description" tab to view the container list.

If there isn't a detailed description tab, please email a librarian to ask for them to send the complete finding aid or inventory if available.

Using Finding Aids

  1. Read through the finding aid to decide which parts of the collection will be the most helpful when searching for information on your research topic. 
  2. Select which boxes you are interested in using based on the information in the container list.
  3. Each researcher may request up to 6 boxes each day of their research visit.
  4. Researchers can use one box, and one folder at a time to ensure materials remain in order.
  1. Once you've identified the collection you wish to request, click "Request an in-person research appointment."
  2. This will bring you to the checkbox finding aid. Use the checkboxes within the finding aid to select the boxes you'd like to view. 
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the finding aid and schedule your appointment. Click "New Appointment" to schedule a new appointment to view these materials. If you already have an appointment planned, click the drop down menu and select the date of the appointment you would like to add the material request to.
  4. For images of how this looks, refer to the "Planning Your Appointment" tab of this LibGuide. For collections or items without any checkboxes displayed, please contact staff