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Archives and Special Collections: Using the Archives

Researching in the Archives

Whether this is your first time researching in archives or you have been researching in archives for years, it's always best to be prepared for your visit. 

Visiting an Archive

Researching in archives can be intimidating especially if it is your first time. To ensure your visit is easy and productive follow these tips:

  • Prioritize Your Requests- ask yourself what materials would be most helpful and request to see them first.
  • Balance Your Workflow- Familiarize yourself with the policies to better adapt to your workflow.
  • Ask for Assistance- Always ask the archivist for help.
  • Bring the Right Supplies- Always bring pencils and paper. You can bring extra supplies like a pencil sharper, magnifying glass (for small handwritten materials), and a light sweater (many research rooms are cold).
  • Take Throughout Citations- You may need to reference the materials again.
  • Point Out Corrections- If you find a mistake in the finding aid or inventory, let the archivist know! This will help future researchers.
  • Connect with Others Researchers

[From the Society of American Archivist]

What are Archives?

Archives hold published and unpublished materials in any format including manuscripts, letters, photographs, film, art-work, and diaries. Archival materials are often unique, specialized, or rare objects.

The archivist is the caretaker of the archives and it's materials. They organize and arrange materials, create finding aids (guides), and make archival materials accessible by either visit to the archives or through a digital collection. 

There are many types of archives all of which will have unique materials in their collection. The Archives and Special Collections at the Luce Library is an academic archive with a special collection. Special Collections include materials from individuals, families, and organizations deemed to have significant historic value. 

[From the Society of American Archivists]

Planning Your Visit

If you located archival materials that are unavailable online, then you will need to conduct your research on-site at the archives. Always contact the archives through email or phone call before your visit.  

To ensure your visit to the archives is easy and productive, consider the following:

  • Contact the archival staff of the dates of your arrival and materials you intend to view.
  • Confirm your appointment or the visiting hours.
  • Inquire about parking and consider any accommodations, transportation, and food.
  • Review guidelines and policies including items allowed in the research room and reproduction fees.
  • Ask about internet access or accommodations for laptop use.
  • Schedule some additional time for unexpected materials you may find during your research. 

[From the Society of American Archivists]

How Do I Find an Archive?

As you research for your topic, you may need to consult an archives for primary sources. But how do you find the right archives?

[From the Society of American Archivists]


Stephen B. Luce Library || SUNY Maritime College || 6 Pennyfield Avenue, Bronx, NY 10465 || Phone: (718) 409-7231 || Email: library@sunymaritime.edu

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