Most Finding Aids will include an outline inventory of the material in the collection. Importantly, the level of detail included in a Finding Aid inventory may vary widely by collection, based on many factors, usually related to how much time we've had to properly process and describe it.
The tiers of description in the Finding Aid outline may include:
|Many collections will be divided into series, or sections, according to things like material type (like correspondence, publications, and media), time period, organization division or subject. The series usually reflect the original order of the collection, as it was stored by the creator. Each series may be described with its own scope/content note, dates, quantity/extent, or other details, that further explain the content and context of the material in that series.
|Within each series, there may be a box and folder list. The folder list usually gives the title of the folder, but does not offer further description of the material contained in each folder. See the scope/content note of the series or the collection for an idea of what type of material you will find in the folders.
|Some Finding Aids may include item-level descriptions that give specific information about individual items within the collections. This is more often the case for photographs, audiovisual media items, or published materials.
Keep in mind: the organization of a Finding Aid may reflect the content of the collection, and not necessarily the physical order of the material. In this example, to find Walter Orr Roberts' correspondence with NASA, you'll want to see Box 83 and Box 97:
These two folders are stored in separate locations, but they are listed together on the Finding Aid so they are easy to search for.