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A finding aid is a descriptive guide for an archival collection. Typically, it includes information about the origin, history, content, date and format of the records, as well as the physical and intellectual arrangement imposed upon them by the archivist. Please note that most of the collections in the Museum Archives are based upon corporate history and have a basic level of description in place. However, the most detailed finding aids pertain to the 15 collections that were processed under the Mellon Museum Archives Initiative Grant; five of these collections have scanned images associated with them. Researchers should review the finding aids before visiting the Archives in person. If you need help using the finding aids, please contact the Archivist.

Archival Standards >>


Folders are alphabetized according to the American Library Association Filing Rules (Chicago: American Library Association, 1980).

Capitalization and punctuation

Titles are capitalized and punctuated according to the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd ed., rev. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1998). Note that because the Museum’s finding aids are generated from a database, it is not possible to italicize or underline text. As such, titles of published works typically appear as plain text while titles of works of art appear in double quotes. Brackets indicate that the information therein was supplied by the archivist.


Dates supplied by the archivist appear in brackets. Uncertain dates are followed by a question mark. Circa dates (“ca.”) imply a date within five years of the approximate date given. For example, ca. 1910 implies that the material dates from 1905–1915.

MARC records

Collection-level MARC records generally adhere to the cataloging rules specified in Archives, Personal Papers, and Manuscripts (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1989).

Online finding aids

Finding aids are compliant with the Encoded Archival Description Document Type Definition (EAD DTD), version 2002, and with RLG Recommended Application Guidelines for EAD, version 1.

Personal and corporate names

Names of individuals and corporate bodies are verified whenever possible using the Library of Congress’s Name Authority File, available at Note the Library of Congress and its participating partners do not update all authority records with death dates.


Interpreting Finding Aids >>

Collection Summary

Contains brief summary information about the collection, specifically its title, date, creator(s), extent, and three-character code used by the archivist to quickly identify it. In addition, this section includes an abstract of the collection and its creator(s).

Information for Researchers

Provides information for researchers about how the collection should be cited, and whether there are any access or use restrictions beyond the typical ones associated with archival collections. In addition, this section contains information about related and separated archival material at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and elsewhere that might also be of interest to researchers.

Administrative Information

Contains information primarily useful for the archivist. Listed here is information about who processed the collection, how it was acquired, and whether or not additional material has been added to it.

Historical Note

Establishes a context for understanding the records by relating them to their author/creator. For individuals, this section contains a biographical sketch detailing the life and activities of the person or persons who generated the papers. Emphasis is typically given to accomplishments, events, and experiences reflected in the material. For a corporate body, this section contains an administrative history focusing on the structure, function, and purpose of the organization.

Scope and Content Note

Provides a narrative description of the material in the collection, detailing its format, content, and use. Typically, the note includes information on the specific types and forms of material; the most significant topics, events, persons, and places represented by the collection; and, when appropriate, information about the functions or activities resulting in the creation of the records.

Arrangement Note

Describes how the collection is organized, typically within a series. When appropriate, information about why that arrangement was selected is included.

Series Description Outline

Provides progressively more detailed information about discrete sections of the collection. For series with subordinate series (subseries and sub-subseries), a scope and content note describing the collective content of those subordinate units is included. For series without subordinate series, a scope and content note describing the material within that section only is included, as well as a folder-level inventory of the files within that unit. The inventory includes information about a folder’s author/creator, subject, format, and date. Please note that the Philadelphia Museum of Art lists folders in intellectual, rather than physical, order. This means that box and folder numbers may not be consecutive, but instead may jump between boxes, reflecting the fact that unusual and oversize format material is stored separate from the main collection.

This section may also include see and see-also references. A see reference is placed within the folder inventory at a place where the researcher may think certain information should be located, but is not. The reference redirects the research to the correct place to look for the pertinent information. Many see references direct a researcher from the name of a corporation an individual is associated with to the name of the individual, or vice versa. A see-also reference may occur at the series or folder level, and provides a mechanism for linking related material. If there are several related folders with the same title and within the same series that might be of interest, a link is provided to the first folder only.


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