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HIS 360: History Workshop: Methods and Practice
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In a broader sense the term archives is often applied to any records, documents, or unpublished, one-of-a-kind written materials that are deemed to have informational, cultural, historical, or artifactual value and are deliberately preserved for future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:
What records make it into the archives?Archival records are selected through a process called appraisal and dispositon. Appraisal is defined as the process of determining the value (and thus the disposition) of records based upon their current administrative, legal, and fiscal use. In addition, records are evaluated to determine their possible evidential and informational value.
Evidential value is defined as the worth of documents for illuminating the nature and work of their creator by providing evidence of the creator's origins, functions, and activities.
Informational value is defined as the worth of documents for reference and research deriving from the information
they contain on persons, places, subjects, etc.
Other factors influencing the appraisal of records include:
How are archives organized?Unlike libraries, archives are organized by broad record groups, and not by general subject areas. Archival record groups are often defined by the office of origin, or creator of the records.
The college archives is organized into 15 broad record groups, and then broken down into smaller subgroups and record series. An outline of the records available in the College Archives is provided here. A more detailed, searchable database finding aid is available in the archives.
Books and other materials in the Franklin and Marshall College Library are organized by subject according to the Library of Congress Classification System.
Why are archival documents revisited?Archival documents may be revisited by researchers when:
What challenges do archivists face in preserving records?In preserving records for the long term, archivists are concerned with the following two categories of threats:
Analyzing Primary ResourcesMaking Sense of Evidence - History Matters Website
"Making Sense of Documents" provide strategies for analyzing online primary materials, with interactive exercises and a guide to traditional and online sources. "Scholars in Action" segments show how scholars puzzle out the meaning of different kinds of primary sources, allowing you to try to make sense of a document yourself then providing audio clips in which leading scholars interpret the document and discuss strategies for overall analysis.
Document Analysis Worksheets
Locating Primary ResourcesLancaster Collections
Archives and Special Collections - Franklin & Marshall College
Lancaster County Historical Society
Duke Street Library - Library System of Lancaster County
OAIster . . . find the pearls
Directories - U.S. Collections
NUCMC - National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections
Archives Finder (4)
Electronic Resources to Locate Secondary SourcesAmerican History
America: History and Life
Pennsylvania Newspapers (including Lancaster, PA)
A more complete list of Lancaster PA historic newspapers (1796-present) can be found here.
New York Times - Full Image (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)
Contact Christopher Raab for further assistance or fill out a research appointment request form to meet with a librarian.
Last updated: 8/12/11 cmr