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Researching a Topic in 4 Easy Steps
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Researching a Topic in Four Easy Steps:

Step 3a: Consider using alternate types of material - Manuscript and Archival Materials

Manuscript and archival materials are unique resources that can be found in only one library or institution (though copies may be available elsewhere on microfilm or microfiche.) Generally speaking, manuscript collections relate to individuals or family groups while archival collections are generated by organizations or institutions. "Manuscript" originally described any handwritten item, but the format of manuscript and archival materials now is diverse and may include letters and diaries, photographs, maps, architectural drawings, objects, computer tape, video and audio cassettes, etc. The size of a collection may range from a single document to hundreds or even thousands of linear feet.

You might want to use manuscripts/archives:

  • for historical or sociological research
  • as primary source materials
  • to be in the most direct contact with the creator or the event

Manuscript and archival materials are held at various Yale libraries, many of which are described on the Special Collections at Yale page. You can search for manuscript and archival collections in Orbis by setting limits to your search. Click on the More Limits button on the Orbis search screen and highlight "Archives and Manuscripts" from "Item Type." For more help on limiting searches, see the Orbis help page.

Limiting searches to Archives and Manuscripts

The Orbis record for a manuscript collection provides a brief summary of the content and extent of the collection. Click on Long View in the Orbis record to see more detailed information about the collection. The Orbis record also usually directs you to a "finding aid", a document that provides more detailed information about the collection. Many of the finding aids for manuscript and archival collections at Yale are now available in fulltext on the web, through the Yale University Library Finding Aid Database; other finding aids are available only in paper format at the repository.

See the Yale University Manuscripts and Archives Tutorial for tips on getting started on research at Manuscripts and Archives in Sterling Memorial Library.

For information about finding manuscript and archival materials beyond Yale's collections, see Locating materials at Yale and beyond: Archival Collections.

Back to Researching a Topic in Four Easy Steps

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This file last modified 05/17/06
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