Basic Archival Terminology

Arrangement: The process of identifying archival documents as they belong to groupings within a fonds.

Collection: Materials that are gathered together and organized based on theme or topic.

Description: The recording of information, based on descriptive standards, about the nature, structure and content of the records. 

File: An organized unit of documents brought together because they relate to the same subject, activity, or transaction.

Finding Aid: Finding aids are documents that contain information about the material part of a fonds or a collection and facilitate the retrieval of those records.  Finding aids are used by researchers to determine if the records in the collection or fonds hold information that is significant to their research.  They may take on many forms including a guide, inventory, shelf and container lists and registers.

Fonds: Records created and/or accumulated by an individual or organization.

Item: An archival unit that can be distinguished from a group and that is complete in itself; a level of description.

Provenance: The source of the records. This may be an individual, family or organization that created and/or accumulated and used the records.

Series: Documents arranged systematically or maintained as a unit because they relate to a particular function or subject, result from the same activity, have a particular form.