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Archives and Creative Writing

This guide offers resources, prompts, and readings about how to use archival materials for creative writing projects.

Citations, Copyright, and Publishing

Citation of Archival Resources
Archives often have slightly different ways for organizing their holdings, and therefore the citation may change depending on the institution with which you are working and the style of citations you are using (e.g. Chicago, APA, MLA). The following elements should be captured in your citation:

  • The repository where the item is held
  • The collection title and number (if available)
  • The subcollection or series in which the item is found
  • The box and  folder title or number in which the item is found
  • The document itself including any page, section or date information
  • Barnard Archives and Special Collections citations look like this:
    • Identification of Specific Item; Date (if known); Collection number - Collection name, inclusive dates; Box and Folder; Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library, Barnard College.
    • Here is a sample citation: The Scholar and the Feminist IV program; 1977; Barnard Center for Research on Women records, 1962-2015; Box 10, Folder 12; Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library, Barnard College.
  • When in doubt, ask a staff member!


  • Materials in the public domain are works for which copyright has expired or has been abandoned. They are not protected by copyright law and can be used without permission.

  • Fair use is a rule that allows, in specific cases, limited use of materials that are copyrighted without first obtaining permission from the copyright holder

  • Always talk to an archivist about issues of copyright and/or licensing before publishing content that you find in an archives.

  • It is the responsibility of the researcher to find the copyright holder and obtain the necessary rights before publishing or citing from materials.

  • Here are a few resources to help you determine if your use of an archives is under copyright, is in the public domain, or falls under fair use
  • Copyright issues in archives can be complex. Even though an archives may physically     hold or own a document, it does not necessarily mean the institution or repository holds the copyright for that document. Whether or not an institution or repository has copyright depends on several factors. Sometimes donors transfer copyright to an institution or repository; however, a donor can only transfer copyright for those materials which they have created.


  • Consider adding your work to Academic Commons, a digital repository of works published by individuals in the Barnard and Columbia communities. An added benefit is that you’ll receive a URL to your work which you can add to your resume!
  • Your Personal Librarian can help direct you to various journals and publications where you can submit your work. Your Personal Librarian can also talk with you about what you can expect from the process of submitting your work for publication.
  • Your rights as an author are very important. The Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office has a great tips for managing your rights for your scholarly work
  • Publishing your scholarship is a great part of the research cycle in which you can participate. Sharing your research opens new perspectives, findings, and avenues to other scholars and is, thus, an awesome way to participate in scholarly dialogue and your scholarly community. If you want to publish:

Citation Management