What are Archives?
"The word archives can be used in three different ways:
Excerpted from The Story Behind the Book: Preserving Authors’ and Publishers’ Archives by Laura Millar, and retrieved from https://www2.archivists.org/about-archives on 1/27/2020
What can I do in a library that I can't do in an archive?
Archives are typically home to unpublished materials like memos, diaries, letters, working papers, sometimes photographs or other Ephemera. An archive is not "browse-able" in the same way a library is. Researchers will use a Finding Aid to get a sense of what might be in an archival collection, rather than search by keyword in a catalog to find books, articles or other materials like you would in a library. Access also looks very different in a library than it does in an archive. While both are designed to help connect people to ideas, an archive is typically more focused on the preservation of material, whereas a library's primary mission is less about preservation and more about gaining access to knowledge and information.
To learn more about the differences between libraries and archives, take a look at a few resources listed here:
How do I start my research?
You can start you research in a lot of different ways - from finding secondary source materials like books, articles, or newspapers that might help frame your research you can find the specific people, places, and things that can be found in an archival collection.
Some archival collections are highlighted in the tab above and are a great place to start if you have a specific person or movement in mind.
To find a collection, you can search in Archives Grid, which searches across nearly 5 million records describing archival materials and archival institutions.
Archives and libraries are different in a few different ways, but the biggest is when you visit an archive it's always better to plan ahead. Here are some key points for what you need to know before you go for your research visit.
Check hours and access:
Do you research before you go:
Archives in New York City:
Selected Archival Collections:
"An individual responsible for appraising, acquiring, arranging, describing, preserving, and providing access to records of enduring value, according to the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control to protect the materials' authenticity and context."
"A description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials."
"Finding aid includes a wide range of formats, including card indexes, calendars, guides, inventories, shelf and container lists, and registers... is a single document that places the materials in context by consolidating information about the collection, such as acquisition and processing; provenance, including administrative history or biographical note; scope of the collection, including size, subjects, media; organization and arrangement; and an inventory of the series and the folders."
If the materials in an archive are the treasure, think of the Finding Aid as the treasure map.
Scope and Content Note
"A narrative statement summarizing the characteristics of the described materials, the functions and activities that produced them, and the types of information contained therein."
Scope and content notes are part of finding aids and catalog records.
Definitions were retrieved from the Society of American Archivists' Glossary on 1/27/2020