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Archives: Finding Aid Guides

The College Archives is the repository for non-current Hampshire College records having permanent, historical, legal, fiscal, or administrative value. The archives also holds Div IIIs as well as professional and personal papers of some faculty and alumni.

Collection Access Points

Online Sources

ArchivesSpace: ArchivesSpace is a web application for sharing information about archival collections. The College Archives uses ArchivesSpace to create access for researchers to holdings information via finding aids (descriptions of resources and collections). ArchivesSpace may be browsed or and searched by keyword. While some records have links to digital collections, most resources require a visit to the Archives.

Collections A-Z: An alphabetical list of named special collections is in the Harold F. Johnson Library.  Browse by collection name or search by subject group.  

Compass: Compass is a centralized repository and platform for the three colleges to store, manage and publish digital objects on the Web. For researchers and campus communities it serves as a single point of access for culturally unique resources held by the partner institutions. Compass is a collaboratively developed infrastructure to support shared maintenance and stewardship of critical archival and scholarly materials. Unlike previously implemented systems, Compass employs a flexible digital object model (FEDORA) that allows for complex relationships and compound objects, and offers fine grained control for honoring diverse access conditions.

Archive-IT: is a subscription-based service that allows institutions to have whole domains or subdomains crawled and archived at regular intervals (e.g., daily, weekly, yearly, etc.). When Archive-IT scans pages, it compares them to the last archived version and only saves a fresh copy of webpage content if that content has actually changed. In this way, it can be extremely vigilant in tracking changes but also highly efficient in data storage. It also crawls and archives files linked or embedded within web pages, including pdfs, docs, images, and videos, in essence re-creating a fully-functional historical website and not merely a collection of webpage snapshots.

Finding Other Archives' Collections:

There are a few decent databases to help you find other archival repositories and collections that might match your research question. To start, try ArchiveGrid and Archive Finder, but you can also try WorldCat and Google.

Five Colleges 

University of Massachusetts Amherst Special Collections & University Archives 

UMass has exceptional holdings for African American history and culture; organized labor; the peace, antiwar, and antinuclear movements; political and cultural radicalism; alternative societies; spiritual approaches to social change; and the history of agriculture, with an increasing emphasis on organic agriculture and sustainability. In addition to the major areas of collecting interest, SCUA is home to an eclectic assortment of materials documenting Revolutionary-era France and Belgium (1789-1848); the history of protistology; and the American study of Japan.


Amherst College 

The Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College holds over 80,000 books and 11,000 linear feet of archival material. The department houses major collections of Emily Dickinson and Richard Wilbur books and manuscripts, along with one of the largest collections of Native American literature in the United States.


Smith College

The Smith College Special Collections houses the college's various rare book, manuscript, and archival collections. They have college archives, the Mortimer Rare Book Collection, and the Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History, which is the oldest and one of the largest collections of women’s history in the world.


Mount Holyoke College 

Mount Holyoke College collects, preserves and shares the stories of the Mount Holyoke community — its people and its physical places — from the school’s founding in 1837 to the present day. Materials that patrons can use for research and teaching in Archives and Special Collections include photographs, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, rare books and much more.


Reading a Finding Aid


A finding aid is a guide to the archival collections an institution stewards, and is the most commonly used organizational tool in archives. Often longer than a library catalog record, a finding aid provides descriptive information about what's in a collection and how you can find material. Though finding aids may differ depending on the institution/organization there are key components of a finding aid that are universal. Standard findings aids include: 

Biographical/Historical Note: The history section of the finding aid will have a biography on either the person or family (if it a collection of personal papers) or history of the organization.This section will help you to understand the context in which these records were created and sometimes provide important background information.

Scope and Content Note: The scope and content notes in a finding aid will describe what will be found in the collection. It will tell you the type of material (example- annual reports, correspondence, blueprints, etc.). It may also tell you what not to expect to find in a collection.

Collection Inventory: Archives collections are not indexed item by item, but rather by folders. These folders may have only a few documents or contain many folders.  The folder title will describe the subject of all the documents found in that folder. At the end of the finding aid there will be a section that lists the title of each folder and the box it is found in. This information will help you identify folders within collections that you'll want to review  in the College Archives. 

An example of a finding aid for a collection held in the College Archives and Special Collections is the guide to the Lynn Miller Papers.