In archives, Provenance is the "biography" of a collection. It includes information of when the collection came into being, who created it, and its ownership history.
A finding aid is a document that describes an archival collection. It usually includes an abstract of a collection's contents, a history of the collection, and an inventory of materials in the collection. WSU's finding aids are available online as PDFs on the Archives collections page.
Library books are organized on the shelves by subject and discoverable through a catalog record. Archives collections are organized by provenance (their origins) and then described in a finding aid. A typical archival collection includes multiple boxes containing folders of papers, photographs, or printed materials.
A book or journal is carefully organized and edited. An archival collection may be idiosyncratic. It may be the product of many different people gathering materials at various times. There may be gaps in information or unexpected surprises.
You can borrow library materials and take them home with you. Archives materials must be used in the archives reading room only.
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.
The archivist musat processes a collection before making it available for researchers to use.