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Research Tips

What is a Finding Aid?

The Society of American Archivists defines a finding aid as a "description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials."

Here are the basic parts of a finding aid:

  • a description of the records in a collection, or scope and content note
  • a brief biography or history of the person or group of people who created the records
  • a list of the records in the collection, or inventory

The scope and content note and the historical note help you, the researcher, more fully understand the context in which the records were created. The inventory (usually a list of folders, sometimes of boxes or even individual items) helps the user to determine whether or not a particular item or piece of information is likely to appear in the collection. Many of the collections in the Drexel University Archives are described by finding aids, which are searchable through our 'Explore Our Collections' page. If you have any questions about using finding aids, don't hesitate to contact us by emailing

How our Collections are Arranged

The abbreviations before each collection title represent each collection's unique identifier, which we use to track collections. Each abbreviation contains some useful information for researchers.

'MC' indicates a Manuscript collection. These are archival records donated to the Archives by individuals or organizations. Individuals might be affiliated with Drexel (faculty, alumni, etc.), but the records are not "official" records of Drexel University.

'UR' indicates a University Records collection. The records of Drexel's colleges and schools, academic departments, administrative offices, etc. are organized in the Archives into the following categories:

  1. Office of the President
  2. Board of Trustees
  3. Administration
  4. Academics
  5. Library
  6. Students, faculty, and staff
  7. Athletics
  8. Campus organizations (other than Greek letter orgs)
  9. Committees, projects, and reports
  10. Public relations
  11. Museum
  12. Publications
  13. Fraternities and sororities

For example, UR 1.1 is the records of the first president of Drexel, James MacAlister. UR 7.2 indicates the records of Drexel football program.

'PC' indicates a Photograph collection. These are, simply, collections consisting only of photographs. Please note that some Manuscript and University Records collections may contain photographs. See each collection's documentation for more details.