Research tips

How is doing research in an archive different from other library research? Archival materials are generally:

  • Unpublished (letters, memos, record books, diaries, notes, etc.)
  • Unique, one-of-a-kind, single items
  • Often handwritten, so prepare to spend time deciphering
  • Old and in fragile condition
  • Not organized by subject, but by who created them! Ex: Headmaster’s papers, papers created by various clubs
  • Limited by the collection policy of the archives
  • Used only in the archives reading room and cannot be checked out or removed
  • Stored in special conditions to limit deterioration

Tips for doing research in an archive:

  • Do background research on your topic so that you have an idea what sort of collection you might find information in. An organization’s records? A personal collection? What archives might have such a collection? The Lawrenceville School archives have only things related to Lawrenceville.
  • Remove only one folder at a time and use acid-free paper markers to mark the place where you removed a particular item.
  • Keep everything in order as you find it, both folders and items within those folders.
  • Handle items carefully. Most are one of a kind!
  • If you are looking at unsleeved photos or very old documents, wear white gloves (available from the archivist) to protect them from damage.

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