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Archives & Special Collections

What is a Finding Aid?

Finding aids put collection materials in context by consolidating pertinent information that would be of use to researchers such as biographical notes, scope/content of the collection including size, media, and arrangement, and administrative history, etc. Finding aids can be described on a variety of levels such as collection, series, folder, and item level or all of the above, which gives the researchers the most detailed idea of what is housed in a particular collection. In a basic manner, think of this like an abstract to a journal. You may search for different collections (Record Groups) using Cortland's online finding aids to help identify specific research materials.

Arrangement FAQ's

How are university materials arranged?

The college archives collects and maintains records that relate to the history of SUNY Cortland and its predecessors. The records themselves have been primarily arranged by campus entity or affiliation. For instance, if one was interested in viewing materials on President Donovan Moffett, the primary Record Record would be President's Office. Two Sub-Groups exist in the RG: President's Office, which include "individual presidents" that served Cortland, and "Administrative Business," which documents the office and its role. There is a chart below to help illustrate this example. Not all records are structured based on the organizational chart of the college, but many of them are.

RG: Presidents Office
SG: Individual Presidents
S: President Donovan Moffett

What is a Record Group?

Because most items in the Archives do not have call numbers (like most ordinary library materials contain), identifiers such as a Record Group (RG), Sub-Group (SG), and a Series (S) make up the unique code. Each record in the archives contains a unique set of numbers. You can think of these as the equivalent of a call number.

University archives tend to use the term "records," as opposed to "collections." Though this is not to say an archive does not have collections, but a researcher will see the term Record Group used primarily. Record Groups are designations that relate to official records (university records) that reflect a specific office, school, department, or other affiliated area with Cortland. A Record Groups primary focus is to reflect the organizational structure of its collecting body (in this case SUNY Cortland), and can change with time.

What is a Sub-Group?

A body of related records within a record group or collection, each corresponding to an administrative subdivision in the originating organization.

What is a Series?

A group of similar records that are arranged according to a filing system and that are related as the result of being created, received, or used in the same activity.

What does Folder List Mean?
A folder list makes it possible to browse the contents of the collection without having to physically access the materials. Some folder lists may also include information about the series and about the span dates of the contents in each folder.

How can I locate materials of interest?

Understanding the mechanics of the archival filing system (arrangement) can sometimes be tricky for new users. However, if one is interested in learning about a specific Record Group, say the President's Office, they could click on the established finding aid (these are on the left side of this page) to learn more about the history of the records, the scope of the materials, the listed inventory of the materials (what exists in the boxes), related collections, and more.