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Frequently Asked Questions about Archival Collections at UMD

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

We are improving our database of archival material. This new interface allows for more accurate searching across and within collections and for the inclusion of digital material in search results.

Searches will include results from most processed and unprocessed archival collections and digital material. There is a small portion of material that is not included in the search results, please contact us if you cannot find what you are looking for.

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:

If you are unable to visit us, you may request copies of specific items; however, we are unable to provide copies of entire collections or entire portions of collections. You may also hire a professional research assistant. If neither of these options work for you, you can contact a librarian to explore other options.

Duplication policies

General policies

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 a librarian to assist you in your search.

Requesting from unprocessed collections is not possible via Archival Collections. If you would like to request use of material from an unprocessed collection, contact a librarian.

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. If an inventory is available for the collection, you can find a link 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".