Doing Archival Research

Advice About Visiting Repositories

After identifying a collection that has promising resources for your research, it is important to do some preparation before visiting the repository.

  • Work closely with the curators to get the most out of your time. 
    Contact the repository staff in advance of your visit. Most repositories and libraries have web sites that list the staff and their specialties, hours of the reading room, and department policies.  
  • Be prepared to explain your research topic and tell the curator what sources you have already consulted.
  • Ask specifically about accessing those collections you have found in bibliographies or online. 
    If there are restrictions on a collection, ask if it is possible to petition for access. Also ask if the curator knows of additional collections pertaining to your topic at the repository, at other libraries, or in private hands.
  • Set up an appointment to see the collections, or portions of collections, that you and the curator believe will be of most use to your research.
    If your time in a repository is short, spend your time defining what you would like reproduced for later study and/or on those pieces or parts of the collection that require in-person study (e.g. artifacts, items with handwriting that is difficult to decipher, fragile items, etc.).