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HIST 3442: American Migrant Cities

Resource guide to primary sources for HIST 3442: American Migrant Cities

Local Archival Repositories

And if you are able to travel a bit farther....

Culturally and Racially Insensitive Material in the Archives

Working with archival material requires us to acknowledge the past on a regular basis. Some archival materials may represent positions, cultural norms, and values that are no longer, or never were, acceptable. You might come across insensitive and socially unacceptable descriptions and depictions while looking at primary sources. 

Similarly, there may be instances in which material has been described in an insensitive and socially unacceptable manner during acquisition or processing. Archival descriptions are not fixed documents and should be reviewed regularly and updated as needed. It is appropriate to bring problematic descriptions to the attention of the archivist or librarian if you feel comfortable doing so. 

Visiting an Archives

So you found some material related to your topic at a local archives---what next? Every archives is different, but here are some good guidelines to follow: 

  1. Check on the archive's website if an appointment is required (this is very common!). Even if it is not required, scheduling an appointment means the archivist can prepare material for your visit, allowing for a more efficient use of your time. 
  2. You will likely be expected to sign a registration form, and agree to abide by a list of "reading room rules." These rules are in place to help protect priceless historical documents, and will likely include such guidelines as no food or drink, no pens, and no backpacks. Be prepared and bring paper and a pencil with which to take notes. 
  3. Ask if you can take photographs with your phone. Most of the time this is allowed, and is a great way to record your observations. Some archives may not allow photography, and require you to pay for photocopies or scans. 
  4. Allow plenty of time for your research visit. It often takes longer than you expect to read older handwriting. 
  5. Ask the archivist or librarian if you need help determining how to cite the material you viewed.