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THIST 101 Introduction to History Methods - Sundermann: Archives and Archival Research

What are archives?

* derived from: Schmidt, Laura, "Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research," Society of American Archivists, 2017,

Types of archives

Archives are managed by a variety of types of institutions and the materials they collect differ. Familiarity with different kinds of archives is helpful for finding resources that are most appropriate for your research.

  • College and university archives: typically preserve materials related to the university or college.
  • Corporate archives: manage and preserve records of that business.
  • Government or national archives: may collect materials related to all levels of government.
  • Historical societies: preserve materials related to a specific interest, such as a region, event, or industry.
  • Museum archives: maintain diverse collections that typically consist of artwork or artifacts relevant to the type of museum. Items are often displayed.
  • Religious archives: collect and preserve materials related to a faith, denomination, or individual place of worship.
  • Special collections: a collection of items, usually in a library, that are either irreplaceable or rare. These items are kept separate from regular library collections.

Featured archive

Tips for finding archives

Tips for finding archives:

  • Look at bibliographies and works cited sections in secondary books and articles to find out where they found their information.
  • Visit other history research guides. Find a list of them here.
  • Look for websites related to your topic.
  • Use an online search engine such as Google and use Advanced Search options to limit by domain
  • Ask an expert in the field or consult a reference librarian.
  • Narrow results by using Advanced Search options
  • Limit by domains
    • Examples: .edu, .org,
  • Try different search engines
    • Do a search in Google but then repeat it in DuckDuckGo
  • Go beyond the first page of results

Find an archive in the UK using databases

  • Archives Hub

    This website enables you to search for archives at over 300 institutions in the United Kingdom. Includes online resources.

  • Find an archive

    A service of The National Archives. You can search for archives in the United Kingdom by country and region, as well as worldwide.

  • ArchiveGrid

    Contains archive collection descriptions from over 1000 archives worldwide. You can search by keyword or scroll to "United Kingdom" in the "Search by location" box to search UK archives.