Main Reading Room. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C., Carol Highsmith, photographer

What are Finding Aids?

Handwritten poems by Walt Whitman ... Leonard Bernstein's scrapbooks ... Thomas Edison's patents ... photographs and memoranda from the NAACP ... Margaret Mead's field notes ... The collections of the Library of Congress offer researchers rich and deep access to primary source material of unparalleled interest and significance.

Finding aids provide a gateway to this wealth of Library treasures, helping you discover and navigate through the thousands of boxes and folders that house each collection.

These guides provide comprehensive overviews of unique Library resources. Progressively detailed descriptions of a collection's component parts summarize the overall scope of the content, convey details about the individuals and organizations involved, and list box and folder headings. Special service conditions are noted, including terms under which the collection may be accessed or copied. Links are provided to digitized content, when available.

What is EAD?

LC finding aids are XML documents created using the Encoded Archival Description (EAD), an international standard maintained by the Library of Congress in partnership with the Society of American Archivists (external link).

Finding Aids at LC

Policies and practices followed by the Library when creating its finding aids are documented in EAD Best Practices at the Library of Congress. These guidelines supplement the EAD3 Schema and Tag Library, published by Library and the Society of American Archivists.

Search LC Finding Aids

Search across all LC finding aids — or within an individual finding aid — by keywords and phrases. Searches may be limited to a specific LC location and to a finding aid's Overview or Contents List.

Browse LC finding aids by:

PDF versions of finding aids are available from the Print/Download in each finding aids display. Finding Aids can also be downloaded as EAD3 XML and METS documents.

Some older finding aids available only as online text documents are linked from Research Center web pages. Individual research centers may also have older finding aids available only in print.

Descriptions of LC collections can be searched with other Library materials in the LC Catalog.

For information on new LC finding aids and those that have undergone substantial revision in the past month, subscribe to Library of Congress Finding Aids RSS or email updates.