This guide is intended to help Harvard students and faculty find archival and manuscript collections held at Harvard and elsewhere.
The databases involved in searching for archives and manuscripts are by no means self-explanatory, and success often depends on using very particular search methods. Therefore there is much more explanation in this guide than is usual in a research guide.
--"Catalog record” refers to the kind of record found in library online catalogs, similar to those for books, although often a bit longer.
--“Finding aid” (sometimes called an inventory) generally refers to a list of the folder labels for the collection, accompanied by a brief collection overview (scope and contents note) and a biographical (or institutional) note on the creator of the collection. Finding aids may be as long as needed given the size of the collection. They vary considerably according to the practices of individual repositories.
Using Archives: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Copyright and Unpublished Material: An Introduction for Users of Archives and Manuscript Collections are useful overviews of archival procedures.
Please feel free to email me with questions. We can make an appointment for you to come in, and we can talk at length about your project. Fred Burchsted, (firstname.lastname@example.org) Research Librarian and Liaison to the Department of History, Widener Library.
There are four main databases containing AM collection records: WorldCat, ArchiveGrid, and Social Networks and Archival Context Project (SNAC), Archive Finder. These overlap but each contains unique material.
While these four sources probably contain the bulk of AM records, many are not included. We discuss several additional sources, including:
- Numerous regional and state-level databases include archival descriptions. Where you have a geographical focus (approach) for your search
- Some repositories post records only on their own websites. Unless you know of likely repositories, there are a variety of techniques for searching Google.
- There are numerous subject-based guides compiled by specialists.
Archives Made Easy offers practical advice on access to archives worldwide.
Digital Librarian: Archives and Manuscripts (a large and miscellaneous collection of links)
List of Archives (Wikipedia)
Repositories of Primary Sources (University of Idaho Library)
World Wide Diplomatic Archives Index (U.S. Dept. of State) is a guide to the accessibility of diplomatic archives around the world