Manuscripts and archives are unique documents (handwritten or typed letters, diaries, meeting minutes, photographs, financial records, etc.) produced by people and organizations. Manuscripts generally refer to personal papers while archives usually refer to organizational, institutional or business records. Oftentimes the terms are used interchangeably. Some collections may be a single folder containing a few letters while others can span hundreds of boxes containing thousands of documents.
The UW Libraries Special Collections contains manuscripts and archival records that document the history and culture of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Included in the collection are personal papers of early pioneers and settlers, labor and civic leaders, citizen activists and important writers, artists and activists and organizational records from labor unions, the University, important industries, conservation groups and local community and ethnic groups.
A collection guide or finding aid is a detailed inventory of the content of a manuscript collection. Guides help researchers identify the boxes or folder of interest within a collection. A typical guide also provides background information on the organization or person who created the material, an overview of the collection and how it is arranged plus a detailed container list and any use restrictions. For more information see Purdue's How to Read a Finding Aid. Archives West includes UW collection guides as well as access to collection guides available at other libraries in the Pacific Northwest.
The following guides list manuscript collections (and sometimes other material) on important local issues and popular research areas.
These are a selection of sources to identify archival collections as well as some catalogs to specific major collections and directories of repositories.
Tips to Find Manuscript & Archival Collections
These are just a selection of regional archival collections. Use Archives West to search for collections on specific people, organizations or topics located in manuscript collections across the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington & Utah). Also check with local historical societies and museums.
Research using manuscripts and archives 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 manuscript material in Special Collections: