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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.

Please keep in mind that finding aids are not exhaustive.

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 to you.

Using Finding Aids

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. 

Select which boxes you are interested in using based on the information in the container list.

Each researcher will be provided access to one box at a time and may request up to 6 boxes each day of their research visit.