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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a finding aid?

  • A finding aid or collection inventory is a description for archival materials that typically consists of both contextual and structural information.
  • Sections of a finding aid often include administrative history or biographical note, scope of the collection including size, subjects, media types and organization; and an inventory of the series and folders of materials.
  • Finding aids may also include information on the acquisition, provenance, processing, and permissions of the collection and/or materials. They may also contain hyperlinks to external documents and websites.
  • Finding aids can be written for hundreds of boxes of materials or for a single item. There is no size limitation on what can be considered an archival collection. How do I search for materials?
  • Begin a basic search by entering your search terms in the search bar. You may limit the search by record type, searchable fields, and date.
  • Record types allow you to customize the type of records you want a search to return:
    • Limit to collections will only return records for complete collections, rather than people, subjects, series, and files.
    • Limit to digital materials will only return records for materials that have been classified as a digital object by an archivist or librarian.
  • The searchable fields are:
    • Keyword: Searches the entire text of the finding aid.
    • Title: Searches titles of the materials described, including collection records and series and files within collections. If you know the precise title of the thing you're looking for, searching by title can be very helpful.
    • Creator: Primarily searches names of the persons, families, and organizations who created the collections. Please note that limiting by "Creator" will primarily search only creators of collections, not individual records or items within collections. Most creators are connected only at the collection level and not at series or file level records. Creators of series and file level records are usually included in the series or file title. For example, Edward Abbey as editor of the Thunderbird will not come up if you search by creator, because the item is found in a collection created by Dorothy Cline. If you were to do a keyword search for "Edward Abbey" the edition of Thunderbird for which Abbey was editor is found.
    • Subject: Searches by subject headings assigned to materials by archivists and librarians, e.g. New Mexico history.
    • Identifier: Searches by the repository created collection number, which is a unique number by which materials are tracked and requested.
  • You may select a date span to limit the search results chronologically. Searching by date is approximate, and results may fall outside the date span you enter. For example, if you search for records between 1900 and 1950, your results will likely show collections and series with broader date ranges, such as a result with a date span of 1890-1970 since that date range includes the years 1900-1950.
  • You may construct a more complex search by selecting the + icon and adding additional search parameters.

How can I filter my search results?

  • Once you've done a search and are on the search results page, you can use the filter pane on the right side of the page to further limit and customize search results.
  • You may use the filter pane to filter by repository, record type, subject, and name.
  • You may also use the search bar at the top of the filter pane to create additional searches within the search results.

How do I navigate the site?

  • To begin a search, use the search bar on the home page.
  • To learn more about the repositories on New Mexico Archives Online, including contact details, choose a repository from the drop-down repositories list on the top banner.
  • To see a full alphabetical list of collections, click the Collections tab.
  • To see a full alphabetical list of digital objects, click the Digital Materials tab.
  • To see a full alphabetical list of unprocessed collections, click the Unprocessed Material tab.
  • To see a full alphabetical list of subjects, click the Subjects tab.
  • To see a full alphabetical list of names, click the Names tab.
  • For help and FAQs, click the FAQ tab.
  • You can return to the home page at any time by clicking on the New Mexico Archives Online heading.

How do I know which repositories are in New Mexico Archives Online?

A full list of the repositories with finding aids is listed below.

How can I tell where my collection is found?

When you've done a search and are on the search results page, a line beginning with "Found In" at the bottom of each search result indicates which repository holds the collection along with the name of the collection.

When you're viewing a record, the first line at the top of the page indicates which repository holds the collection.

I found something I really want to see. How do I request materials?

To request materials from a collection, select the request button at the top of the page.

After you click on the request button:

  1. A box labeled "Request" should pop up on your screen.
  2. Please enter your full name, email, date you plan to arrive and any additional notes you want to give to the staff.
  3. Hit the blue Request button when you are finished.

Please Note: Each repository has its own location, hours, and policies for providing access to its collections. Please consult the repository with questions about using the materials. Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the repository's reading room. In many cases the collections are stored off-site and require advance notice for retrieval.

Although the system allows requesting on the item level, you do not need to place multiple requests for items within the same box. Most repositories will pull full boxes and not individual folders for researchers.

Who do I contact if I have a question?

  • If you have a question about a finding aid, repository hours or policies, please contact that repository directly. Repository contact information can be found in each repository description. The contact information for each repository can also be found in the Repository Details section of the Collection Overview tab for each finding aid.
  • If you have a question about the New Mexico Archives Online site, it is hosted by the University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections. The CSWR can be reached at

Glossary of Terms

Archives are materials created or received by a person, family, or organization that are preserved because of the enduring value of the information they contain.

Collections are groups of materials assembled by a person, family, organization, or repository. They may be divided hierarchically into series, groupings, and files.

Containers are anything that houses or stores archival materials. A container might be a standard size archival box, an oversize box, a broadside folder, or a media case.

Digital records are born-digital and digitized materials that are available online.

Finding aids are guides that allow users to discover, understand, and access archival collections. Finding aids describe the creation, arrangement, content, and context of archival materials.

Repositories are institutions that hold archival materials. New Mexico Archives Online contains finding aids from 19 repositories from around the state of New Mexico, including libraries, special collections, and museums.

Name records are the people, families, and organizations that create archival materials. In New Mexico Archives Online, users can view name records to see all of the collections created by a person, family, or organization. Name records are shared across all libraries and repositories in NMAO, and staff choose them from controlled lists, including the Library of Congress.

Subject records are topics, places, and genres used to describe the context and content of archival materials. In New Mexico Archives Online, users can view a subject record to see all of the collections relating to that topic, place, or genre. Subject records are shared across all libraries and repositories in NMAO and staff choose them from controlled lists, including the Library of Congress.