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- Unpublished (letters, memos, record books, diaries, notes, etc.)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.