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Primary sources: a guide for historians

For visiting libraries and archives

Next steps

Now, plan your trip. Check the web pages of the library or archive you plan to visit for information about:

  • Access (Is the collection open for research? Do you need a letter of introduction? Will you need to register before using their collections?)
  • Hours (Are they open on the weekend? Closed for renovations?)
  • Copies and scans (Is self-service copying/scanning possible, or must you have copies made by their staff? What are the fees? Can you use a digital camera?
  • Availability of materials (Are materials paged from remote storage? How long will you have to wait? Are some materials temporarily inaccessible?)
  • Arrangement of materials (Are there indexes, inventories, or finding aids for manuscript collections?)
  • Practicalities (Directions, parking?)

Also, you may want to consult Archives Made Easy, a web site that provides tips for researchers visiting many archives in the U.S. and elsewhere.