The Reference Room
Records held by the Archives are maintained according to the state agency or local government that created them. Therefore the records of the Transportation Department are maintained as one "group" and the records of Multnomah County are maintained as another group. In most cases, the records are maintained in the "original order" that was set by the agency when the records were created and used. This helps to preserve the valuable relationships between records that would be lost if they were reorganized by subject or some other scheme.
Finding aids reflect this system. Therefore, the finding aid for the Transportation Department lists and describes all of the records for that agency. Within the finding aid, the records are described to the "record series" level. A record series is simply a set of records that are maintained together because of function, filing system, or some other commonality (e.g., probate case files, administrative correspondence...). In some cases, folder listings or indexes provide more detailed descriptions of the records.
The finding aids are in binders located on shelves to the right of the reference desk. Researchers are encouraged to access these at any time during their work. Many state agency finding aids at the Archives have several basic components (see hyperlinked examples):
Agency history or overview: This usually includes a narrative summary of an agency's statutory responsibility, mission, structure, function, and programs from its creation to the present or to its dissolution (PDF).
Scope and content notes: This is a brief overview of the record group that summarizes the major types of records, overall date spans and size, and highlights especially noteworthy or problematic records.
Record series list: This is a simple alphabetical listing of each record series title in the group. It is useful for quick scans when looking for useful records.
Individual record series descriptions: These describe in more detail the date spans, size, arrangement, types of records, and topics included in each record series.
Additional folder listings or indexes: These include lists or indexes that were generated by the agency or by an archivist in the course of conducting an inventory of the records. They provide more specific information than is available in the record series description.
Separated material lists: These provide brief descriptions of photographs, maps, audio or video tapes, film, or other media that are separated from the general records to better preserve them or because they don't fit in a standard archives box.
Many finding aids are being adapted for the Web and appear as state agency records guides. The guides have some advantages over the printed finding aids, including features such as image slide shows and Web links. However, the most significant advantage may be the ability to conduct keyword searches targeted specifically at the records guides. For example, a researcher can use terms such as "salmon" or "complaint" and find relevant pages in several state agency records guides. The ability to search in this way can free the researcher from the hierarchical arrangement of the records and produce useful results faster. More records guides will be added as they are adapted for the Web.
The finding aids with black binders contain legislative bill tracings dating from 1931 to the present. These do not include all bills but they do represent a very useful and time saving resource. Tracings dating from 1989 to the present are on the Oregon State Archives Web site.
The finding aids with yellow binders contain
listings of county records held by the Archives.
Counties are not required to transfer records to
the Archives. For listings of county records still
held by the counties or by other repositories,
consult the Oregon
Historical County Records Guide included in
each yellow binder and on the Web.