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Visiting the Archives

Summary:

This resource discusses conducting research in a variety of archives. It also discusses a number of considerations and best practices for conducting archival research.

This resources was developed in consultation with Purdue University Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections staff.

Your Arrival at the Archives

Most archives will require you to complete a registration form before you can enter and begin working with their collections. So, before your visit, check their website or call ahead to find out what forms of ID you should bring with you. It is also a good idea to confirm what outside materials, such as paper, writing utensils or cameras, are allowed. Prohibited items will need to be stored in a locker. Some archives may also provide a bag and coat check service. Once your belongings are stored, you can enter the reading room and begin your archival research.

Reading Room Etiquette

Generally, every archives has a centralized reading room in which you can browse the materials you requested. Sometimes you will have your own space to read and research. More commonly, however, you’ll be sharing this space with other scholars and researchers. Following a few simple etiquette rules will help your experience run smoothly.

  • In terms of noise, please be courteous of your fellow researchers. Avoid talking as much as possible. If you are are working with a colleague in the reading room, do so in a whisper.
  • Familiarize yourself with the procedures for handling archives materials. As always, the archivist can guide you and answer any questions about using the materials.
  • Some archives allow you to take photographs of archival materials for research purposes. If you wish to take photographs, you should ask for assistance from the archives staff. You may need to fill out a form beforehand.
  • If you wish to make photocopies or take photographs of an item, ask an archivist for permission first. Some items may be protected by copyright. Bring cash or coins in case there is a charge because the archives may not accept other forms of payment.
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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.