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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

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.

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Collections of unpublished personal papers, organizational records, and historical photographs are described and inventoried in detailed guides known as finding aids.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


  • Central Name Index (CNI) and Central Subject Index (CSI)
  • Located in Special Collections Reading Room. A name/topic index for primary history resources.

  • Pacific Northwest Regional Newspaper & Periodicals Index, 1850-1996

  • The Regional Index contains citations from hundreds of newspapers and periodicals as well as monographs, theses, dissertations, scrapbooks, pamphlets and other ephemera dealing with all aspects of life in Seattle, Washington state and the Pacific Northwest from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The Regional Index began as a card file in 1936. A retrospective conversion project was initiated in 2000 to make the index accessible online. At the present time, more than 116,000 citations are searchable and hundreds of citations are being added each week. Index entries that have not yet been added to the index are located in the card files of the Special Collections Reading Room.
  •  Some (but NOT all) of this is online here:

WA State Labor bibliographies


Highlighted secondary sources and topical bibliographies that are particularly useful overviews of the workers and industry in Washington State. Included are sources which have made heavy use of UW Special Collections. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Instead, it serves as a point of departure to aid researchers in locating primary resource collections in UW Special Collections.


Richard C. Berner was the head of the University of Washington Manuscripts Division (now part of Special Collections) from 1958-1983. His three-volume historical survey of Seattle’s history in the 20th century contains comprehensive lists of citations and makes heavy use of the manuscript collections at the University of Washington. Berner’s interest in labor and social history make his books good sources for historical narratives but--perhaps more importantly for historical researchers--serve as detailed maps of where to look in within the collections to find primary sources materials by topic.

Berner, Richard C. 1991. Seattle in the 20th century. Seattle, Wash: Charles Press. [A series of three volumes. volume names are listed below with call number]

Call numbers:

F899.S457 B47 1991 v.1 Berner, Richard C. 1991. Seattle 1900-1920: from boomtown, urban turbulence, to restoration. Seattle, Wash: Charles Press. [Seattle in the 20th century, v. 1 ]

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 ]

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

Find closest library copy by zipcode


Jonathan Dembo received his PhD from the University of Washington. Along with researching a broad dissertation on the history of Washington state’s working people and their unions, he compiled several useful topical bibliographies. Note that Dembo’s bibliographies only go up to 1978 and 1984.

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

Full text available online

Library Location                       Notes                                Call number                 

SpecColl Reference                   LIB USE ONLY                     Z7164.L1 D45 1978          
Suzzallo/Allen Stacks                                                        Z7164.L1 D45 1978          
Suzzallo/Allen Stacks                                                        Z7164.L1 D45 1978 

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

Library Location                       Notes                                Call number                

SpecColl Pacific NW            LIB USE ONLY                           HD8079.W3 D45 1983

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.

Library Location                       Notes                                Call number                 

Bothell/CCC 3rd Floor Stacks                                             HD5856.U5 S34 1994          
Odegaard Stacks                                                            HD5856.U5 S34 1994          
SpecColl Pacific NW                LIB USE ONLY                      HD5856.U5 S34 1994          
Suzzallo/Allen Stacks                                                       HD5856.U5 S34 1994          
Tacoma Auxiliary Stacks                                                   HD5856.U5 S34 1994 

Find closest library copy by zipcode


Profile Photo
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