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Archives and Archival Resources

Information about locating and conducting research in archives.

Things to Do and Not Do

  • Wash your hands so that they are clean before beginning work.
  • Handle materials carefully. Some repositories may ask you to wear gloves that they will provide to protect objects, especially photographs.
  • Use foam supports to cradle books with delicate bindings when asked.
  • Do not write on the materials.
  • Do not lick your fingers to flip pages.
  • Maintain the original order of the materials you are using. For example, do not pull out folders from various places in the archival box and put them together in the front of the box because those are the ones you want to use first. Keeping the materials in the original order is important. When they are not in their original order, it could lead to the archival staff assuming the materials are missing or could inconvenience future researchers who cannot find the materials in the order specified by the finding aid.
  • Keep materials on the table unless otherwise instructed by the archivist.
  • Write down the the full bibliographic citation and location of the materials you are using. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to cite something months later only to realize you don’t know where the information came from.

Special Considerations

  • Copyright – It is your responsibility to find out who holds the copyright for the material you are using if you plan to cite from or publish them.
  • Restrictions – Some materials may have restrictions governing their use set by the donor, laws, or other legislation such as the family Educational Rights Act (FERPA) or the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPPA).
  • Preferred Citation – Does the archives or Special Collections library ask to be credited in a certain way for use of their materials?

Be Aware of Different Types of Procedures

The following are general guidelines about the different procedures you will encounter at most archives or Special Collections libraries.

  • Users must register upon arrival.
  • The stacks are closed. That means no browsing the shelves. You will need to request the materials you want to see and a staff member will bring them to you.
  • Generally you are allowed to use only item at a time; this may be a single book or single box of documents, or a single folder from a box.
  • Materials must be used in the reading room. You will not be able to check them out and take them home or to your office. You might be allowed to photocopy, scan, or take a digital photograph, but policies vary. Be prepared to sit and transcribe the document.
  • Users are generally supervised by staff while using materials because many of them are unique or fragile.
  • Your materials, including notes, may be searched by staff upon leaving.