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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is this system?
A: This is a database of archival collections held by the Othmer Library at the Science History Institute. It runs on an app called ArchivesSpace, which is like a library catalog, but built specially for finding aids of archival collections.

Q: What’s a finding aid?
A: A finding aid contains an inventory of the contents of an archival collection, information about the person or organization who originally created the materials, and details that help you understand the history of the collection before and after it came to the Science History Institute. Basically, it is an aid to helping you find things in the archives.

Q: What can I find here?
A: This database contains over 600 findings aids for collections held by the archives at the Othmer Library. You can view all available finding aids by clicking on "collections" in the menu at the top of this page. These are not all the collections in our archives, however, only the ones that have up to date finding aids and are ready for researchers to use.

Q: How do I get started?
A: You can search for a keyword, person, or organization in the search box on the main page or click on the magnifying glass at the top of this page. Your results will include all relevant items – whether that’s a finding aid for an entire 200-box collection or a single folder of materials.

Q: Where can I digitized materials from the archives?
A: To see the 12,000+ digitized items from our archives, library, museum, and oral history program, go to our online digital collections here:

Q: I’ve found something that looks interesting! How do I actually see it?
A: Make an appointment to visit our library reading room by clicking on “Make an Appointment” in the menu at the top of this page, or go directly to our appointment form here:

Q: What if I cannot visit the library? Can you digitize something for me?
A: If you are unable to visit the library or would like something digitized, please contact us at We may be able to provide photocopies or digital copies of your requested materials. However, we are unable to photocopy or digitize an entire collection. Please provide collection name(s), box and folder numbers for the materials you are requesting.

Q: I have questions about something in a finding aid or need more information about a collection or item. What should I do?
A: Contact us with research questions or any general questions at