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Browsing descriptive guides in the Texas Digital Archive (TDA)

Descriptive guides, also known as finding aids, are written by archivists to help researchers find the records they are looking for. Each descriptive guide provides information about the arrangement of, historical background of, and restrictions on the records. These sections may be a useful starting point for understanding the context of the records.

Before browsing a descriptive guide, it is helpful to know that these landing pages and guides are arranged like the hierarchical structure of a state agency. The organization of the records and series will reflect the organization of a state agency.

Click a collection icon on the Texas Digital Archive (TDA) home page to begin navigating to the descriptive guides (see Figure 1, below.)

TDA homepage with collections icons outlined.
Figure 1.

After clicking a collection icon, you will arrive at a landing page for that collection. See Figure 2 below for an example of a landing page.

Manuscript landing page with links to enter records for a collection and access a descriptive guide circled in red.
Figure 2. Manuscripts collections landing page.

The landing page provides more information about collections and helpful links to continue your research.

"Click here to enter the records" allows you to begin exploring the collection in the TDA. 

If the records are described in an online finding aid in TARO (Texas Archival Resources Online), use the "Click here to access a TDA online finding aid" link to access the finding aid in TARO (not pictured above). These finding aids will often include descriptions of parts of the collection that are not on the TDA and may be paper records only.

In cases where a TARO finding aid is not available, a descriptive guide for the collection is available in the TDA. Use the "Click here to access a TDA online descriptive guide" link. Descriptive guides for state agencies will also sometimes include links to records for different divisions within that agency.

A link is displayed in the descriptive guide which instructs users to “Click here to enter the records”. Click the link to browse the records (see Figure 3, below).

Descriptive guide with red arrow pointing to link to enter records.
Figure 3.

Individual series can be browsed on this page (see Figure 4, below.) Use the options on the left-hand side to refine your selection as needed. Click anywhere inside one of the rectangles to view the materials for that series.

Screenshot of TDA results page.
Figure 4.

Navigate using the rectangles until you find the records that you are seeking. Scroll down the page to load additional results.

How to find related records

Descriptive guides also make a good starting point to find related records. The “Related Materials” section points to finding aids on TARO, which are more in-depth and describe paper records only accessible in the Archives reading room. Additionally, these finding aids may point to records of related collections in the Texas State Archives and other repositories.

Page last modified: March 24, 2020