News Stories

A Better Way to Explore the Archives

by Robyn Ness


Researchers who use the Bentley’s Finding Aids site for descriptions and other information about archival collections are in for a new, improved user experience. The University of Michigan’s homegrown system has been replaced with ArcLight, an open-source system widely used by academic libraries and archives.

Finding aids describe the contexts of archival collection boxes or folders, and help researchers discover and request the materials relevant to their work for viewing in designated reading rooms.

The new Finding Aids system includes information about the archives of the U-M Library Special Collections Research Center, the Bentley Historical Library, the William L. Clements Library, and others.

Watch this short video to learn about the new finding aids!


What’s new

The new site is cohesive, consistent, accessible, and mobile-friendly, and allows you to more easily search across all U-M collections, or limit your search to just one.

To limit your search to only Bentley materials, you can select the Bentley Historical Library from the repository page.

Your searches will also surface more related items, since ArcLight will match keywords rather than exact phrases only — and then you can filter those results by repository, collection, creator, date, names, place, subject, and format. You can also restrict your search to only those materials that are digitized and available online.

Feedback on the beta version, which has been publicly available for preview since December 2022, was overwhelmingly positive, with particular praise for the easier-to-use interface, broader search capabilities, and search result filtering options.


What stays the same

You’ll continue to use the existing request systems, which vary by partner library, and your user account remains the same (as does the process for creating one). The content of the finding aids, for the most part, is also unchanged — with new finding aids added as they’re created.

If you have questions as you use the new system, please reach out through our Ask an Archivist feature.