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MMUF Workshop - Research Strategies and Resources (HC): Archival Research

Finding Archives

Other options for finding archival materials:

  • Talk to scholars
  • Talk to librarians/archivists
  • Consult bibliographies
  • Do web searching


(the information on this page is taken from the Society of American Archivists' Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research -

At the Archives

Follow usage guidelines. In general that means:

  • no food or drink
  • no pens 
  • no bags or bulky coats in reading room
  •  use gloves when handling fragile materials

Even if you have a good sense of what you're looking for you should still ask archival staff what they have in your subject area. 

Local Archives

Quaker & Special Collections, Haverford College

Special Collections at Haverford has materials that support a wide range of research. Thesis writers should search Special Collections holdings for their topic and then contact Sarah Horowitz about using materials from the collections.

Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College

Special Collections librarians welcome researchers from Haverford.  E-mail or phone Marianne Hansen or Eric Pumroy to tell them your research needs before going over to Bryn Mawr.  Also beforehand look in particular at the collection guides and online exhibits lto get an idea of the kinds of material available for research: 

         Books on London
         French Revolution Pamphlets

Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine Special Collections Search                                  

This group of 22 libraries and scholarly societies promotes research in the history of science. Their collections, many located in the Philadelphia area or East Coast cities, are available for you to use when making an on-site research trip. Use this federated search to see what kinds of materials in your subject area are available.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
HSP was founded in 1824 and has rich holdings in manuscripts, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia history, and ethnic studies.

Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Van Pelt LibraryUniversity of Pennsylvania
The Rare Book and Manuscript Library houses rich holdings including the Henry Charles Lea collection of Inquisition documents and Early Modern books in philosophy and social thought.

Urban Archives, Temple University
"The Urban Archives was established in 1967 to document the social, economic, and physical development of the Philadelphia area from the mid-19th century to the present."- Website

Determining whether archival research is necessary

Before you book a trip to an archive, make sure there is no other way for you to access the materials you're interested in: 

  • Have the materials you're interested in been published? 
  • Would it be possible to get the materials through Inter-Library Loan?
  • Can you get scans of the materials from the archive? 
  • Could someone do this research on your behalf? 
  • If you have a relatively simple research request, is it possible for an archivist to view materials on your behalf?  

Preparing for an Archives Visit

  • Find out if you can cover the costs of the trip through funding from your institution or the archive you're interested in
  • Find out what the archive's hours are and what days it's open
  • Contact archives staff to let them know what materials you're interested in seeing and when you're planning on visiting
  • Figure out travel, accommodations, how you'll get around once you're there
  • Find out how much material you can request at any one time (archives generally have a daily limit)
  • Find out what the reproduction policies are (can you photocopy materials?)
  • Can you use laptops in the reading room? 
  • Can you take photos with your phone/digital camera?