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Guide to the American Civil Liberties Union Records

Guide to the ACLU Records and related collections located at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University

Tips for Searching the ACLU Collection

Due to the exceptionally large volume of the ACLU collection, succinct series and subseries descriptions have been written, providing a basic outline of the records available. However, researchers should always consult the folder lists to ascertain if the records in a specific series or subseries contain a topic of interest, since not all subjects are mentioned in these brief series or subseries-level descriptions. Researchers should also be aware that many topics may be covered in more than one subgroup or series/subseries. 

How to Search

Effective Searching

When searching, it’s good to keep a few things in mind.

  1. Try lots of different terms. “FBI” will produce different results than “Federal Bureau of Investigation”.

  2. The more words you use in your search, the fewer results will come back to you. “Gay Rights” will produce fewer results than “gay".

  3. Using a minus sign (-) will exclude a term from results. If you’re interested in Ray Stannard Baker, but you keep getting results for James A. Baker III, a good search might be “Ray Baker -James”.

Narrowing Search Results

There are two ways of narrowing search results on this site.

  1. More search terms will result in fewer results. Notice that the original search term is already in the box — simply add more terms to get more precise results. If you know that there’s a term that you definitely don’t want to see results for, just put a minus sign ( – ) in front of it. For instance, if you were interested in the history of women at Princeton, but you didn’t want results related to coeducation, simply enter “women Princeton -coeducation”.

  2. You can use the terms on the left of the screen to narrow down your results to entire categories of content.

Sorting Lists of Materials

This site makes it possible to manipulate long inventories of materials to find what you’re looking for.
From the tree on the left of the page, you can choose a group of records. From there, the center of the screen will show a list of everything in this group (or subgroup) of records.
To sort them chronologically, click on the “Date” heading. You can also sort them alphabetically by clicking the “Title” heading, and sort them into their physical arrangement by clicking the “Container” heading.

In some cases, there may be a list within a list — the container information will say “Multiple Containers”. Simply click on that title to see the contents held within.

Advanced Tips

Archival collections are organized by who collected the materials, not what the materials are about. You may be pleasantly surprised by searching outside of the collections that you think an item should be in.

Results in the “name,” “genre,” and “subject” facets can be thought of as tags — if an item has been tagged with any of the terms in the list, it will appear in the revised results. But some relevant results may not have been tagged — narrowing this way may result in missing good material!

Request a Particular Box within a Collection

Sometimes, researchers who have visited before know exactly which box within a collection they want to see. They may prefer to search for that box rather than looking through the whole finding aid to find it. Luckily, there’s a very easy way to do this.

Once you’re in the finding aid for the collection that you want to see, search for “Box X” (with X, of course, being the box number you’re looking for). 

And the results of your search will return records contained in the box you specified. And to request these items, click on the title to go to the entry in the finding aid and click the button that says Request This Box.