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Archival Research at Barnard and Beyond

Visiting an Archives & Typical Guidelines for Use of Archives

  • We recommend setting up an appointment to visit the Barnard Archives. Many other repositories require an appointment; so, make sure you research in advance whether or not you will need to schedule an appointment

  • Know the archives’ rules and, if they are not posted, inquire ahead of time. You may want to ask questions about protocols for ordering materials (if materials are off-site), rules on photography and other reproductions. You may also want to ask about rules for using laptops, phones, and other devices.
     
  • It’s advised to bring a light sweater or jacket! A lot of archives are temperature controlled and can be cold.
     
  • Take a lot of notes and make sure you write down box and folder numbers associated with those notes.
     
  • Ask questions of the archivist! Archives staff are there to help you.
     
  • You may be asked to present ID and you may be asked to place your coat/bag/other items in an area separate from where you are doing your research.
     
  • Food and drink are not permitted.
     
  • Remember that the order of the materials is important. Use one document/folder/box at a time and return the document/folder/box back to the location from where it came.
     
  • If a collection you want to search is far away, you can always call and ask if the archivist is willing to make a photocopy or digital reproduction for you. Most archivists are very happy to do remote reference like this. Be forewarned: some institutions charge a fee for copies and shipping!
     
  • Kelly Wooten, of Duke University, created this wonderful zine about doing research in archives. It has tips on taking notes, questions to ask an archivist, tips on planning your trip, and self-care tips for spending long hours doing research.
     
  • You may find this blog post from the Journal of Higher Education, “6 Tools to Make Archival Research More Efficient” useful.
     
  • For more information, see the Society of American Archivists’ Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research, Visiting an Archives and Typical Usage Guidelines