Provenance is the chronology of creation, ownership, and location of a particular object or collection. To determine provenance, you ask the questions: Who created this? When and why? Who has owned it since its creation? Provenance helps establish a collection's context and may help determine its authenticity and historical value.
A finding aid is a document that describes an archival collection for researchers. It usually includes an abstract of a collection's contents, a history of the collection, and an inventory of materials in the collection. A finding aid is often available online, but some archives rely on paper finding aids. WSU's finding aids are available online as PDFs on the Archives collections page.
The ways in which archives are organized make them different from library collections.
Archival collections are rich in primary sources. These may include correspondence, photographs, documents describing the functions of a particular institution, unedited manuscripts, ledger books of businesses, and objects or publications that are historically significant to a person or place. For historians in particular, archives are essential "raw materials" for scholarly research and writing.
Before an archival collection can be used by researchers, it must first be processed.