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Political Science 330: Archive as Subject

American Political Thought in Hemispheric Context
Professor: Arturo Chang
Spring 2021

Types of Archival Collections

What kinds of material are found in archives?

  • Personal or family papers: created and accumulated by a person or family documenting their life or work.
  • Organizational records: created and accumulated by an organization (committee, business, school, etc.).
  • Intentional collection: created and accumulated by a collector or institution to document a particular topic, person, or entity.

What formats are found in archives?

  • letters
  • reports
  • notes
  • photographs
  • audio and video recordings
  • email
  • printed pamphlets or posters
  • newspaper clippings
  • any format that documents the entity or activity in question

Institutional Archives

Institutional archives are those that hold records created or received by their parent institution. Institutional archives include, but are not limited to: college and university archives, corporate archives, government archives, historical society collections, museum collections, religious archives, and special collections. 

Definition from Society of American Archivists "Insitutional archives" glossary entry and "Types of Archives" page. 

 

Why use Institutional Archives?

  • Lots of material
  • Often easier to access

What to watch out for:

  • May only present one side of the story
  • Unethical collection practices

Examples - Institutional Archives

Search Strategies - Institutional Archives

Search Williams WorldCat

Some libraries catalog their digitized archival collections in Williams​ WorldCat.

  • Search for your topic, event, or person
  • Look at the Format facet on the left, and choose "downloadable archival material," "computer file," "continually updated resource," or "website" 

    Note: some items will not be freely available or may just be collection finding aids.

Use Google Advanced Search

  • Enter keywords for your topic, event, or person
  • Use the site or domain search option to limit your search to institutional domains ( .gov, .edu, and .org)
  • Add search terms such as "archives," "digital," or "digitized"
  • Also try search terms related to the type of primary source you would like to get, such as "oral history,"  "transcript," "speech," etc.

    IMPORTANT!! Be sure to evaluate the sites you find, particularly who created the site in order to determine biases and what information might be included/excluded. Look for information in the "About" section, or perform additional searches for the institution itself.

Community Archives

Community archives are created or accumulated, described, and/or preserved by individuals and community groups who desire to document their cultural heritage based on shared experiences, interests, and/or identities, sometimes without the traditional intervention of formally trained archivists, historians, and librarians. Instead, the engaged community members determine the scope and contents of the community archive, often with a focus on a significant shared event. Community archives are created in response to needs defined by the members of a community, who may also exert control over how materials are used.

Definition from "Community Archives" Wikipedia Entry.

 

Why use Community Archives?

  • Gives a different, often more contextualized perspective
  • Supporting the community that the information belongs to

What to watch out for:

  • May be difficult to locate digitized documents
  • Access may only be granted to community members

Examples - Community Archives

Search Strategies - Community Archives

 

Use Google Advanced Search

  • Enter keywords for your topic, event, or person
  • Used the site or domain search option to limit your search to relevant domains (.org, sometimes .edu, rarely .gov)
  • Add/combine search terms such as"community," "archives," "digital," or "digitized"
  • Also try search terms related to the type of primary source you would like to get, such as "oral history,"  "transcript," "speech," etc.

    Be sure to evaluate the sites you find, particularly who created the site in order to determine if it is really a collection made by the community it concerns, or if it was collected by an outside entity.