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Research Guides

Pacific Northwest Collection: Find Archival Collections

Archival collections and library materials relating to the history, culture, and people of the Pacific Northwest.

Search for Archival / Manuscript Materials


How to Use Collection Guides/Finding Aids

You can search our online archival finding aid database Archives West. The finding aid (collection guide) is a detailed guide or inventory of the contents of a manuscript or archival collection. The guide helps researchers identify the boxes or folders of interest within a collection. A typical guide also provides biographical or historical information on the person or organization that created the material, an overview of the collection, and how it is arranged plus a detailed container list and any use restrictions.

Other Resources

Pacific Northwest Scrapbook Collection

Special Collections collects scrapbooks that document Pacific Northwest history. The term scrapbook refers to an album or book made up of derivative materials. Often scrapbook compilers arranged their collected material around a common theme. Scrapbooks offer unique glimpses into a subject, or into the interests of a compiler. The personal compilations illuminate community issues, and as unique items, they make a valuable contribution to our regional collection. Our collection at present includes approximately 120 scrapbooks, or scrapbook sets, covering a variety of subjects from the 20th century. 

Online Searching Tools

Special Collections also maintains a simple A-Z list of databases and online tools to help you identify relevant archival material.

Reference Services

Staff can also direct you to print sources describing our collections or conduct searches in staff databases. If you are not finding what you need, please ask for assistance by email, chat, or request a consulation.


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. 

Personal Papers

Special Collections holds papers from individuals that range from a single item, such as New York Times correspondent Roger Conant's account of the voyage of Asa Mercer's "belles" from New York City to Seattle in 1866, to the 1,790-linear-feet of Congressional papers of the late Senators Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson.

Other papers may be handwritten drafts by poets, correspondence among members of an extended family, or notes of historic preservationist Victor Steinbrueck at Seattle City Council meetings.

Organizational or Corporate Records

Files of organizations and businesses typically contain meeting agendas and minutes, correspondence and notes, reports, and miscellaneous other items.

The collections of PNW non-profits represent a wide variety of advocacy groups devoted to specific causes: public education, urban development, civil rights, environmental protection, women's rights, and good government. Others -- trade unions, professional organizations, and religious bodies -- protect and nourish the welfare of their members. Business firms, especially those with a long history in the Puget Sound area, are documented by extensive correspondence, reports, financial records, and other material distinctive to their businesses.