Once you've identified an archival collection that is relevant to your research topic, you will want to learn more about it. A finding aid is a document that describes the origin, content, size, and other information about an archival collection (usually a physical collection that is stored on-site at the institution). Finding aids are the archives’ equivalent of a library catalog record, and they are an indispensable tool for learning about the resources that are available.
Here's an example of what a finding aid looks like:
The format and structure of finding aids often varies from institution to institution, but the content is often the same. At the top, you will probably see the title of the collection and a range of dates indicating the age of the materials. Here are two examples of finding aids that look very different: