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Research Guides

Scandinavian Studies: Special Collections: Scandinavian American Materials

A smörgåsbord of materials

Special Collections at the University of Washington offers students, faculty, and community researchers a wealth of material about Scandinavian immigration to the Seattle Area. This page offers helpful tips about how to find materials about Seattle's Scandinavian heritage, as well as some insights into what's available in Special Collections. See below for our pages on photographic collections and personal stories related to Scandinavia and Scandinavian Americans, and tips for finding more materials.

Using Special Collections

Research using Special Collections material is different from more typical library research.  The unique nature of the material dictates that there are stricter security procedures -- users need to register, manuscript materials need to be requested, personal belongings are placed in lockers, photocopying is limited, etc.  The following tips can help you when using the material in Special Collections:

  • Check Special Collections hours, they are open fewer hours than the rest of the library.
  • Read the Special Collections pages: Help for Our Users and Using the Collections.
  • Do preliminary research first so that you can place the manuscript material in historical context.  Since manuscripts tend to be either personal papers or organizational records, it is essential to know the important people and groups associated with your research topic.
  • Make sure the collections you need are housed on site.  Some collections are kept off-campus and must be requested prior to use.  If this information is not provided in the online finding aid (or if there is no online finding aid), contact Special Collections to check.
  • Peruse the online finding aid, if available, prior to using this collection so that you can identify the boxes and folders you will need to examine.
  • Allocate sufficient time.  Research using these materials takes time.

Starting your search: Finding useful materials

Start your search in UW Libraries' Special Collections using the search box below to find collection guides/finding aids below.

Helpful terms:

  • country (Norway, Sweden, etc.)
  • ethnicity (Finnish, Danish, Icelandic, etc.)
  • type of resource (poem, diary, film, oral history, personal papers)

Our Collection Guides search tool has migrated to Archives West.

Starting your search: What are finding aids?

Once researchers have conducted searches according to geographic region, time period, place, genre, or other terms, the Special Collections database will return hits in the form of finding aids.

Finding aids are descriptions of unpublished personal papers, organizational records, historical photographs, and other items that are kept in Special Collections. A finding aid helps a researcher identify materials (usually in boxes) of interest. A typical finding aid provides information about an organization, person, or family who created or collected the material, an overview of the collection and its arrangement, and a detailed list of the collection content. Many finding aids are available on the Special Collections web page.

Finding aids also provide the collection name, accession number, box number, and format of resources. These pieces of information are necessary to page the materials from special collections.

Looking at materials: Visiting Special Collections and Retrieving Materials

When researchers have identified materials they would like to see and if the material is not available in digital format, in order to see an item, they will need to make a visit to Special Collections. All researchers will be asked to complete a Project Description for Archival Research and show one piece of identification (with address and photo) at their first visit.

To see materials, fill out a form that specifies the collection name, collection number, accession number, and box(es). Use one form for each accession (item) or collection and write all accession, collection, and box numbers on the form. Researchers will also be assigned a user number to add at the top of each Retrieval Request Form.

Special Collections retrieves materials for patrons all day, but note that some of items are kept in off-site storage. Be sure to allow a generous amount of time to find and see materials. Materials will be held on shelves for up to three weeks, unless a researcher makes other arrangements with the reference desk staff.

Looking at materials: Sample retrieval slips