Archives rely on finding aids to inform researchers about the records in their holdings. Finding aids are called a variety of names, including inventories, guides, box lists, accession worksheets, catalogs, and shelf lists. The California State Archives has many finding aids, mostly referred to as inventories, printed as stand alone documents. Traditional printed finding aids require the researcher to spend time reading the agency histories and numerous series descriptions to identify the records that best fit their research needs. With the advent of online descriptive tools, such as Minerva and the Online Archive of California, searching finding aids has become a much easier process, although it can still be time consuming and overwhelming.
In addition to traditional finding aids, which describe records within the context of their creating agency, many archives produce research guides that focus on one topic or subject. These research guides pull together information from multiple collections and record groups (record groups generally refers to the agency that created the records, while collections generally refer to materials created by an individual or non-governmental entity) and present the researcher with a condensed look at documents related to that specific subject. Because archives continuously receive new materials, these research guides are rarely comprehensive and the researcher should also check for recent acquisitions.
The most recent research guide created by the California State Archives covers the area of labor history. Download the guide here: Records in the California State Archives for the Study of Labor History