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Using Archives and Special Collections (Tri-Co)

This guide offers hints on how to use archival and special collections material, from reading material through citation.

Using Special Collections

Below are several videos which provide an overview of what you may be asked to do when you visit a special collections department. While all of these videos show schools from outside the TriCo, the procedures are farily universal and apply to almost any archives or special collections you might visit, at least in the United States.

Reading and Understanding a Finding Aid

A finding aid serves as both the table of contents and index of a manuscript collection. It will help you determine whether the collecion has material of interest to you, and, if so, where that material is located.

Potentially Harmful Language in Archives

When you engage in historical research, you may encounter outdated and potentially offensive terminology (especially relating to race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation) both within historical documents and in the finding aids or catalog records that describe these documents. We acknowledge that some of these terms may be triggering or off-putting to our audience, and we apologize for any offense or discomfort that you may experience. Temple University Libraries' has composed an excellent explanation for why potentially harmful language exists in archival description and cataloging.

TriCo archives are engaged in a process of seeking to identify and eliminate past practices that may have alienated certain patrons - including revising certain terms in finding aids and catalog records where appropriate. If you encounter harmful language, please let us know (,,, or so that we can address it.