Franklin &  Marshall College Library

AMS 171: Franklin's College and Beyond

What are Archives?

Archives are the non-current records of an organization or institution preserved for their continuing historical value.

In a broader sense the term archives is often applied to any records, documents, or unpublished, one-of-a-kind written materials that are deemed to have informational, cultural, historical, or artifactual value and are deliberately preserved for future generations. Archival materials of a personal nature such as letters, diaries, or wills are often called manuscripts or papers rather than archives since they do not document the official business of an organization, but that of an individual or family.

The Archives and Special Collections Department at Franklin and Marshall College serves three major functions. First, it is the repository for the official archives or institutional records of the College as well as a broad collection of other materials relating to the history of Franklin and Marshall. Secondly, the department preserves the personal manuscripts and official papers of prominent area individuals, families and local organizations. Lastly, as a unit of the library, the department maintains special collections of rare materials such as autographs, books, maps, posters, newspapers, prints and photographs.

Why are archives important?

Archives are a valuable tool in historical research as they represent a tangible link to the past. They chronicle, first-hand, what actually occurred during a particular event or time period. This proximity results in a unique "participant's perspective" that is invaluable to historians in understanding and interpreting the past.

Archives are held by a wide variety of institutions including religious organizations, corporations, government agencies, medical institutions, historical societies, and universities.

What are the differences between Libraries and Archives?

In order to use libraries and archives effectively, it is important to understand the major differences between the two:

  • Libraries contain published items available elsewhere. Archives generally contain unpublished items that are unique to the collection.
  • Library books are housed in open stacks and may be borrowed by researchers. Archives materials are housed in closed, secure stacks and may not be borrowed by researchers.
  • Library books are cataloged and described on an item level. Archival materials are often organized and described in groups or folders.

General Guidelines for Reading Historic Documents

When first learning to read and transcribe historic documents, begin with 19th century documents, and work backward to the colonial period. This way, you will become familiar with early handwriting, spelling, abbreviations, and common salutations.

Other guidelines include:

  • Have a good quality magnifying glass at hand for difficult letters or symbols.
  • Have a subject specific dictionary at hand to identify historical terms or phrases.
  • Have a list of historical abbreviations at hand to identify common title, name, and date abbreviaitons.
  • Begin by reading the document through at a fast pace, then re-read at a slow pace, examining each word.
  • Compare unknown letters or words with similar words on the same page and/or in the same document.
  • Be aware of spelling variations, especially in pre-Civil War era documents. In colonial America, words were often spelled phonetically - often in local accents.

General Rules for Transcribing Historic Documents

When transcribing documents, include all original abbreviations, cancellations, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.

Technical rules include:

  • Use three ellipses points . . . to indicate the omission of words due to paper loss or stains.
  • Use a question mark in brackets [?] for words or parts of words that are illegible.
  • Use the expression sic in brackets [sic] to indicate that a misspelled word has been transcribed exactly as written.
  • Transcribe the long s as a regular s. Example: Mafs. is actually Mass.
  • Spell out uncommon abbreviations in brackets. Example: Indian affs. [Affairs]
  • Include appropriate footnotes with background or biographical information.
  • Include a citation for the original document at the bottom of your transcription.

Locating Primary Resources

Lancaster Collections

Archives and Special Collections - Franklin & Marshall College
Organizes, promotes, and preserves the visual and written record of the college, and special collections of the library. Find college archives, manuscript collections, photographs, yearbooks, Lancaster maps and local newspapers.

Lancaster County Historical Society
Exhibitions on Lancaster history and research library. Find 19th and 20th century local newspapers, photographs, manuscripts and archival collections.

Duke Street Library - Library System of Lancaster County
Find 19th and 20th century local newspapers and Lancaster city records.

Directories - U.S. Collections

NUCMC - National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections
A massive database containing records of manuscript collections from across the country. The "Eligibility Guidelines" clarify what kind of manuscripts are included in the database, while various tip sheets and a FAQ provide additional guidance. From the Library of Congress.

Archives USA (4)
Locate primary resources held in over 118,000 archives and special collections with links for contact and access information.

Electronic Resources to Locate Secondary Sources

American History

America: History and Life
Comprehensive bibliography of articles on the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to present. Covers abstracts 1964 to the present.

ANB Online
The American National Biography includes more than 17,400 men and women whose lives have shaped the nation. Updated quarterly.

F&M Student Newspaper Collection
The F&M student newspapers The College Reporter and Student Weekly are available as a full-text searchable database covering the years 1915-2001. A twenty-year run of the Lancaster Journal newspaper (1816-1836) has recently been added to the database.

A more complete list of Lancaster PA historic newspapers (1796-present) can be found here.

New York Times - Full Image
The New York Times (Sep 18, 1851 - Dec 31, 2001, full-text) offers full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue. The collection includes digital reproductions providing access to every page from every available issue.

Book Catalogs

F&M Catalog
The F&M catalog contains records for all of the books, journals, maps, and recordings held by the Shadek-Fackentahl Library, Martin Library of the Sciences, Academic Technology Services, and Whitely Psychology Library.

A catalog of library holdings worldwide. Now contains over 1 billion records! Search here if you are having difficulty locating books on your topic, and you have plenty of time before your work is due: obtaining books found in WorldCat requires the use of E-Z Borrow and/or Interlibrary Loan (ILL).

Other "How To's"...

Additional Help

Contact Christopher Raab for further assistance or fill out a research appointment request form to meet with a librarian.

Last updated: 8/16/07 cmr