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Primary Source Research in Special Collections and Archives

Finding archival materials beyond VCU

There are archival repositories found worldwide that focus on a variety of different topics. Depending on your research needs, it may be wise to search for archival materials beyond VCU's collections.

Consolidated databases, which search through multiple collections, can be a good way to locate archival materials:

  • Archival Resources of the Virginias (ARVAS) is a consolidated database that provides information about the vast array of manuscripts and archival materials housed in historical societies, libraries, museums, colleges, and universities across Virginia and West Virginia. The continuous addition of new and updated finding aids makes this a great tool for discovering primary source materials documenting the history, culture, and people of these two states.
  • ArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers look for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies.
  • Digital Public Library of America can be used to search digitized materials at multiple institutions.
  • The Library of Congress has an extensive collection of digitized materials available online.

Other avenues for locating archival material:

  • Following citations from works cited and bibliographies of books and articles related to your topic
  • Talking with scholars within the field of research
  • Doing topical and keyword searching on the internet
  • Talking with archival staff at institutions with similar or related collections to your field of study