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ENGL 386: Roots of Modern Rhetoric - Archival research

How to search special collections and archives

Digital resources

Online archival research tips

  • Most archival materials are not digitized and online
  • Often archives include collection guides (also called finding aids) that describe a collection of items (photographs, syllabi, reports, letters, etc.), but nothing from that collection has been digitized
  • You can email or call the archives staff to double-check - sometimes the items have been digitized but not made available on their website
  • Be flexible with your search terms (also called keywords) - often a single word is better than a phrase (more than one word) to start a search
  • Google might help you find archives or collection guides, but you probably won't easily find digitized items from archival collections
  • Context is important to understand primary sources - often what you find in Google images is removed from its context (where it came from, who made the original, why they made it)
  • Archivists love context - (who, what, where, why, when) and make sure to provide as much as they can
  • You can ask archival staff to digitize something in a collection - but understand that they might say they don't have time or that it will cost money
  • Some digitized archival items can be easily downloaded as high-resolution digital files - others may require you to contact the archives staff and request a high-resolution digital file directly (this is typically determined based on the copyright status of the item)