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Research Guides

Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection: Researching in UW Special Collections

Interpretive exhibit examining the historical and cultural context of the the Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection at the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.

Library Guides

List of online labor and labor-related collections of the Labor Archives of Washington State.

Tips for Using Special Collections

Title: Navigating Special Collections Research

Conducting research within Special Collections differs from traditional library research due to the unique nature of the materials, necessitating stricter security measures. Users are required to follow specific protocols such as registration, requesting manuscript materials, securing personal belongings in lockers, and adhering to limitations on photocopying. To facilitate your experience when working with Special Collections, consider the following tips:

  1. Verify Special Collections Hours: Special Collections operates on a distinct schedule, with fewer open hours compared to the library's general hours. It's essential to check their operating hours in advance.

  2. Familiarize Yourself with Special Collections Resources: Explore the Special Collections webpages, particularly the "Research Assistance" and "Using the Collections.s" sections, for valuable insights into their resources and guidelines.

  3. Conduct Preliminary Research: Prior to delving into Special Collections materials, perform preliminary research. This will help you contextualize the manuscript materials within the historical backdrop. Since manuscripts often comprise personal papers or organizational records, understanding the key figures and groups associated with your research topic is crucial.

  4. Verify Collection Locations: Ensure that the collections you require are housed on-site. Some collections may be stored off-campus, requiring advance requests for access. If this information is not available in the online finding aid, or if there is no online finding aid, contact Special Collections for clarification.

  5. Review Online Finding Aids: If available, peruse the online finding aid before your visit. This will enable you to identify the specific boxes and folders you need to examine, streamlining your research process.

  6. Allocate Adequate Time: Understand that research conducted within Special Collections is a time-intensive endeavor. Plan your visit with sufficient time at your disposal, as these materials may require a more thorough examination and consideration.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can make the most of your research experience within Special Collections.

UW Special Collections Reference Tools

Finding Aids for Special Collections

What is a Finding Aid?

Collections of unpublished personal papers, organizational records, and historical photographs are described and inventoried in detailed guides known as finding aids. A finding aid helps the researcher to identify boxes or folders of interest that may be retrieved from the stacks for study.

Prepared by the staff, the typical finding aid provides background information on the organization, person, or family who created the papers or photographs, an overview of the collection and its arrangement, and a detailed container list.

Not all of our finding aids are currently available online. If you don't see what you are looking for, please be sure to check with Reference Services for assistance.

Databases and Online Lists

Detailed listing of Special Collections Search Tools including online databases, digitized collections and bibliographies.

For information on finding specific items by format (books, periodicals, photographs, architectural records, maps etc.) consult the Special Collections How do I find...? guide.

UW Libraries Catalog

Some of the collections are not listed in the online finding aids. Searching the Libraries online catalog provides another point of access into our collections. 

To get an effective search of Special Collections, constrain the catalog search by location or select specific formats to target your search. To limit by location, select "Seattle Campus Libraries" under Scope and "SpecColl, Manuscripts" under Location. 

Print Resources to Archival Collections


  1. Central Name Index (CNI) and Central Subject Index (CSI)

    • Location: Special Collections Reading Room
    • Description: A name and subject index for primary historical resources.
  2. Pacific Northwest Regional Newspaper & Periodicals Index, 1850-1996

    • Description: This comprehensive index includes citations from hundreds of newspapers, periodicals, monographs, theses, dissertations, scrapbooks, pamphlets, and various ephemera. It encompasses all aspects of life in Seattle, Washington state, and the Pacific Northwest from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The Regional Index initially began as a card file in 1936 and was followed by a retrospective conversion project in 2000 to provide online accessibility. Presently, more than 116,000 citations are searchable, with new additions on a weekly basis. Index entries that have not yet been integrated into the online index can be found in the card files within the Special Collections Reading Room.
    • Access: Some portions of this index are available online at the Pacific Northwest Regional Newspaper & Periodicals Index.

WA State Labor bibliographies


Highlighted Secondary Sources and Topical Bibliographies

These secondary sources and bibliographies provide valuable overviews of the workers and industry in Washington State. Many of them heavily utilize UW Special Collections, making them excellent starting points for researchers seeking primary resource collections within UW Special Collections.

  1. Richard C. Berner

    • Richard C. Berner, who served as the head of the University of Washington Manuscripts Division (now part of Special Collections) from 1958 to 1983, authored a three-volume historical survey of Seattle's 20th-century history. These volumes offer comprehensive citations and extensively draw from manuscript collections at the University of Washington. Berner's focus on labor and social history makes his books not only excellent sources for historical narratives but also detailed roadmaps for identifying primary source materials by topic.

    • Volumes:

      • Volume 1: "Seattle 1900-1920: From Boomtown, Urban Turbulence, to Restoration"
      • Volume 2: "Seattle 1921-1940: From Boom to Bust"
      • Volume 3: "Seattle Transformed: World War II to Cold War"
    • Call Numbers:

      • Vol. 1 - F899.S457 B47 1991 v.1
      • Vol. 2 - F899.S457 B47 1991 v.2 [Full text available online]
      • Vol. 3 - F899.S457 B47 1991 v.3
    • UW Seattle Locations:

      • Odegaard Stacks - Vol. 1-2
      • SpecColl Reference (Library Use Only) - Vol. 1-3
      • SpecColl Pacific NW (Library Use Only) - Vol. 2-3
      • Suzzallo/Allen Stacks - Vol. 1-3
  2. Jonathan Dembo

    • Jonathan Dembo, who obtained his PhD from the University of Washington, conducted extensive research for his dissertation on the history of Washington state's working people and their unions. He also compiled several topical bibliographies that are valuable resources for researchers. It's important to note that Dembo's bibliographies cover the period up to 1978 and 1984.

    • Bibliographies:
      • "An Historical Bibliography of Washington State Labor and Laboring Classes" (1978)
      • "Unions and Politics in Washington State, 1885-1935" (1983)
    • Call Numbers and Locations:
      • "An Historical Bibliography of Washington State Labor and Laboring Classes" (1978)
        • SpecColl Reference (Library Use Only) - Z7164.L1 D45 1978
        • Suzzallo/Allen Stacks - Z7164.L1 D45 1978
        • Suzzallo/Allen Stacks - Z7164.L1 D45 1978
      • "Unions and Politics in Washington State, 1885-1935" (1983)
        • SpecColl Pacific NW (Library Use Only) - HD8079.W3 D45 1983
  3. Carlos A. Schwantes

    • Carlos A. Schwantes authored "Hard Traveling: A Portrait of Work Life in the New Northwest." This book provides insights into work life in the Pacific Northwest and is a valuable resource for researchers interested in the region's labor history.

    • Call Numbers and Locations:
      • Bothell/CCC 3rd Floor Stacks - HD5856.U5 S34 1994
      • Odegaard Stacks - HD5856.U5 S34 1994
      • SpecColl Pacific NW (Library Use Only) - HD5856.U5 S34 1994
      • Suzzallo/Allen Stacks - HD5856.U5 S34 1994
      • Tacoma Auxiliary Stacks - HD5856.U5 S34 1994

These highlighted secondary sources and bibliographies, many of which are available online or within UW Special Collections, provide a valuable foundation for researching the history of workers and industry in Washington State.


F899.S457 B47 1991 v.2 Full text available online  Berner, Richard C. 1992. Seattle 1921-1940: from boom to bust. Seattle in the 20th century, v. 2. Seattle, Wash: Charles Press. [Seattle in the 20th century, v. 2 ]

F899.S457 B47 1991 v.3 Berner, Richard C. 1999. Seattle transformed: world war II to cold war. Seattle in the 20th century, v. 3. Seattle, Wash: Charles Press. [Seattle in the 20th century, v. 3 ]

Find closest library copy by zipcode

Dembo, Jonathan. 1978. An Historical bibliography of Washington state labor and laboring classes. Seattle: [s.n.].

Full text available online

Find a copy at another library nearby

Dembo, Jonathan. 1983. Unions and politics in Washington State, 1885-1935. New York: Garland Pub.

Full text available online

Find closest library copy by zipcode

Schwantes, Carlos A. 1994. Hard traveling: a portrait of work life in the New Northwest. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Find closest library copy by zipcode


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Conor Casey
Conor M. Casey, MA, MLIS, CA
Head, Labor Archives of Washington

Libraries Special Collections

Labor Archives of Washington

Mail: Box 352900, Seattle, WA 98133-2900

Allen Library South, Basement/B81D

206.685.3976 fax 206.543.1931