Frequently Asked Questions

For more information consult the Society of American Archivists Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology.

General Questions

What is the difference between an Archives and a Library?

An archives is a receiving institution which means that it receives the inactive records of its parent organization. This means that an archives serves as the repository for historical information on that organization. Archives, in addition to maintaining the records of its parent organization, can have areas in which it collects documents related to a theme or area of interest (e.g. history of a region, theater or religion)  and serves as the place where research can be done to learn more about the organization or its affiliated collections.

A library is a collecting institution which means it collects published material from a variety of places to serve the informational needs of its patrons. Libraries do not only rely upon information from their parent organization.

How is archival material organized?

Information is organized according to collections and follow the principle of original order, the concept that a collection should be organized according to how the creator or collecting entity arranged the documents in the collection. This is done because while documents provide the content of a collection, the principle of of original order provides the context for a collection. If there is no original order to a collection then the archivists will organize the collection according to a method that makes the most sense. This method could be by document type, alphabetically or chronologically.  

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a document that helps a patron find information within a collection by providing a 1) collection size, 2) content list, 3) historical background and 4) any restrictions that may exist for the collection. In essence, a finding aid is a document that provides a description of the collection and its content.

Where are the College Archives located?

The archives are located on the second floor of the Cardinal Cushing Library. The archives can be reached at (617) 264-7606 or at

I'm unable to visit the Archives. Do you offer research services?

The Archives welcomes your inquiries relating to the history of Emmanuel College. Limited staff time means that you need to be as specific as possible when requesting information. The archives can be reached at (617) 264-7606 or at

I want to get a copy of a photograph that is credited to the Emmanuel College Archives. How do I proceed?

Depending on the legal restrictions, condition of the original(s) and physical format, the College Archives may be able to provide photographic reproductions.

What is an oral history?

An interview where a person discusses their memories of past events.

What is the difference between an archives and a records center?

An archives is a repository of inactive permanent records that serve as a historical record of an institution. A records center is a a repository of active records of an institution that are not needed on a day-to-day basis.


Drexel University. “The Basics: Frequently Asked Questions About Archives.”

Harvard University. “Frequently Asked Questions.”
   (Last Modified June 26, 2009).

National Archives and Records Administration. “Questions About Archives and Archivists.”
            (accessed October 7, 2014).

Society of American Archivists. "A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology--Oral History."
    (accessed October 7, 2014).