Skip to main content

Help using Archival Collections

Browse tips, frequently asked questions and definitions to help you navigate our finding aid database. 

Understanding the...


  • Browse by Libraries, Collections, Digital Materials, and Record Group (under the “Libraries” menu). 
  • This website provides only limited access to unprocessed collections, researchers should by contact a librarian for additional holdings information. 


  • Archival Collections includes a search tool, utilizing basic “Google-style” keyword searching or  more advanced search options.

Simple Search

  • Enter a keyword, person, place or subject and click the “Search” button.
  • The results will display all of the record types and return any matches that are deemed relevant. By default, search results are presented by relevance, and various record types are intermingled in the result set.
  • Searching is not case sensitive; a search for “maryland” or “Maryland” will produce the same results.
  • Searching does not require diacritic characters; a search for “Vālṭ Viṭman̲” or a search for “Valt Vitman” will return the same results.

Advanced search

  • The advanced search enables additional searching options.  Add additional rows to the search tool by using the plus symbol (“+”) on the right-hand side to construct more complicated and precise queries.
  • For example, a user may search for “Maryland” within collection records and “civil war” as the topic or subject field.

Four basic methods can be used to navigate through search and browse lists, and these methods can be combined, giving a user the power to modify the display of the result-page lists.


  • When on a results page, records can be sorted by relevance, title, and any machine-readable begin and end dates that have been used to describe the records.

Filter by text

  • Users can filter their results page to only show records containing a particular string of text or keywords, such as “photographs.” These filters can also be removed after a search has been completed, by clicking on the “X” icon that follows the filter that has been applied.

Filter by date

  • Searches and result pages can be filtered by date. The date used for filtering is the machine-readable begin and end dates that have been used to describe the records.
  • Here is an example of a “SCUA Collections” results page that has been filtered by text (“radio programs”) as well as a date range (from “1900” to “1950”):

Filter by topic

  • Browse lists can be filtered by clicking on the desired term in the list, which appear under the “Additional filters” header on the right-hand side of the results page. The options available will vary depending on the set of records you are browsing, but could include Libraries (SCUA and/or Performing Arts), record types, and names of people or organizations.
  • To browse Collections by topic, click on “Libraries” in the gray navigation bar at the top of the page, and then “Special Collections and University Archives” and then click on “Topics.”
  • Only one additional filter per type (e.g. People) can be applied.

Search within a Finding Aid

  • Use “Search within collection” on the right hand side of the page to  search within a finding aid.
  • Results will display folders and series, wherever the search term appears.
  • When you locate folders you want to request, click on the button “Request Box #”


How do I...

Get started by typing a keyword into the search bar or by browsing a library location, collection, or digital objects. Use the filters on the right hand side of the screen to narrow results.

For additional information about research using Special Collections and University Archives, visit Getting Started.

Click the "Citation" button in the top right corner of the screen to generate a citation in the proper format. Use the "Copy to clipboard" button and paste in your desired location.

Citations for archival material should follow the following format:

Name of the Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
(Ex: Betty Quirk Clarke memorabilia and photographs, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.)

Instead of browsing, use keywords to find relevant collections and items. View search results and sort further by using the filters on the right hand side of the screen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Searches will include results from most processed and unprocessed archival collections and digital material. 

Searches do not include cataloged book collections, maps, photographs, or Internet Archive digital material. Contact us with questions or perform separate searches in the following databases:

We have expanded our reference services and can now meet with you online to discuss your project. In some cases we may be able to provide the material you need virtually, without the need for an on-site visit. 

In-depth research assistance is defined as a reference request that takes staff more than one hour to address. Although reference librarians are happy to try and answer questions to the best of their ability, we cannot perform in-depth research services for patrons due to limited staffing. You may consider hiring an external professional research assistant if in-depth research services are required.

Contact us to explore other options.

Try expanding the scope of your search by using broader terms. Consider alternative keywords or broaden the time frame. If that does not work, contact us to assist you in your search.

Requesting from unprocessed collections is not possible via Archival Collections and you will need to contact us for access.

To determine if a collection is unprocessed check for a note under "Conditions Governing Access" in the "Collections Overview". You may also notice that the "Finding Aid View" and "Box List" tabs are greyed out. There may be an inventory available for these collections towards the bottom of the page under "Inventories/Additional Information".


A finding aid is a description of the contents of a collection, similar to a table of contents you would find in a book. A collection's contents are often grouped logically and describe the group of items within each folder. You rarely find descriptions of the individual items within collections. Finding aids also contain information about the size and scope of collections. Additional contextual information may also be included.

A collection refers to discrete groups of material, typically documenting an individual, an organization, or other body. Collections are usually created by an individual or organization and may document significant operations or histories. Sometimes, collections are assembled around a particular topic or theme, especially in the case of book collections.

A record group is similar to a collection. Record groups are separate and distinct groups of material which are usually part of the collection of a larger organization.

A series is a grouping of related material within a collection. A fully processed collection will be organized by series, folders and items, respectively.

Folder level descriptions are commonly the most specific level of description in a finding aid. Folders often contain a number of items related to each other. It is rare that archival collections are described at an individual item level. A fully processed collection will be organized by series, folders and items, respectively.

An item is an individual unit within a collection. Usually an item will refer to material assembled at the folder level. Occasionally, it will refer to a single object.

Digital material is often a digital version of a physical item from our collection.  It could either be a photograph, video recording or high quality scan of a book or manuscript.

Occasionally, digital material is born-digital, meaning that it has always been digital in format, such as a digital audio recording or website.

The "Collection Overview" provides a summary of the collection including a description of the person or organization represented by the collection, the date range for the material, and the size of the collection. Use the navigation menu on the right hand side of the screen to explore the contents of the collection.

The "Finding Aid View" provides a description of the items within a collection. Use the navigation menu on the right hand side of the screen to explore the contents of the collection.

The "Box List" provides a box by box representation of a collection. This is good if you know exactly which box you want to research in the collection. However, many collections will not contain useful information in this view. If that is the case, use the "Finding Aid View".

Unprocessed collections are in the same condition in which they were received. Many collections are reorganized or rehoused, especially if they are received in poor condition. Occasionally we decide to leave a collection in its original arrangement and housing. An inventory usually exists for unprocessed collections, if not a detailed finding aid. You will find a general description of unprocessed collections in the "Collection Overview".

Back to Top