American Studies 301: Theories and Methods in American Studies

A guide to finding sources that illuminate the lives of past Williams students and their environment

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 staff 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.

Record the call number and bibliographic information for each resource you consult and each photograph or scan you make.
You'll need this information to return to the material, or to cite those resources in your work

Be prepared to explain your research topic and tell the staff 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 is short, spend your time defining what you would like to reproduce 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.).

Advice about Requesting Copies

At Williams, we have a very liberal policy on photography and scanning. Reading room staff can help you figure out what method will work best for your needs.

Be aware that some materials may be too fragile, old or large to reproduce easily.

Be very specific about what material you need and how you would like it reproduced.