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Research Guides

Archival Research

Types of Repositories

Special libraries and archival repositories come in every shape and size.  They can be divided into the following broad categories:

Research Libraries
These include large public libraries like the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library, special collections in colleges and universities, and historical societies and museums. 

Government Archives
There are government archives at the national, state, county, and municipal level.  Individual government agencies may also maintain archives of their own records.  These entities may have their own search engines and discovery tools that do not overlap with databases such as ArchiveGrid or WorldCat.

Community Archives
Often organized and run by volunteers.  Community archives usually have the most open access policies and welcome researchers to explore and use holdings with relatively few restrictions.  Examples include the Interference Archive and the Lesbian Herstory Archives.

Local Museums, Historical Societies, Libraries, & Archives
Small-scale local repositories often have wonderfully rich collections and highly knowledgeable staff.  Look for repositories in the geographical vicinity of your subject to find sources in a range of formats. 

Institutional Archives
The records held by companies and organizations documenting their own operations and histories.  These may or may not be open to outside researchers.  Permission is usually required for access.

Private Collections
Personal papers held by individuals and families.  These may be processed or unprocessed materials and access may be strictly controlled.  Contact the administrators directly to inquire about using the collections.  Be sure you understand and can agree to any restrictions before undertaking research. 

Finding Archival Repositories & Special Collections Libraries

To identify repositories that may hold material on your subject, see the list below.  For repositories beyond the U.S., see the International Resources section of this guide.


Additional Subject Resources

Selected NYC Archives & Special Collections

"Statues - New York Public Library - Lions" The NYPL Digital Collections.Following are links to the websites of selected research libraries in and around New York City where you can find manuscripts, archives, and other primary sources.  Rules and regulations vary by institution, so always review the website and contact the staff before visiting. Look for "using the collections" or "visiting the library" pages for important details.