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Research Guides

History : Native American: Manuscript Collections

A research guide to primary and secondary sources for Native American history.

Why Use Manuscripts

Manuscripts and archives are unique documents 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.

Collections can include handwritten or typed letters, diaries, meeting minutes, newspaper clippings, photographs, financial records, oral history interviews, and more. Some collections may be a single folder containing a few letters while others can span hundreds of boxes containing thousands of documents.

Research using manuscripts is different and much more time-consuming than more typical library research. Even though there are collection guides (sometimes called finding aids) listing the boxes and folders usually there is no way to know the exact content without scanning each document. A folder may just note that it contains correspondence from people with surnames ranging from A to He that range in date from 1941 to 1947 but not that there is a letter from Toshiyuki Fukushima describing his experiences at Minidoka.

The UW Libraries Special Collections (located in the basement of Allen Library South) also has unique manuscript collections 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.

In addition to our local manuscript collections the Libraries also owns collections from elsewhere in microfilm plus some that have been digitized.

Help: Learning to Do Research: Manuscripts & Archives

Search Collection Guides via Archives West

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.

Archives West Collection Guides Search

Other PNW Manuscript Repositories & Portals

Selected Manuscript Collections

These collections listed here are just a sampling of those in Special Collections that deal with local Native American tribes and issues. In addition to these manuscript collections there are also a number of oral histories of Native Americans plus collections of ethnographic and linguistic material. To find additional collections search Archives West (searches for the names of tribes work best, e.g., Tulalip, Makah, Lummi, etc.). Special Collections staff can also help you identify relevant collections.