case western reserve university



Visiting the University Archives


If you have not done research in the Archives, here is what to expect and some suggestions for making the most out of your visit.

Discuss your project with an archivist before you visit
We will help you identify relevant sources and what, if any, access restrictions apply. Identifying relevant sources is not always as simple as it seems, so make this initial contact well in advance of your visit.
Make an appointment
There is only one archivist on reading room duty. If we know about your visit in advance, we can make sure materials are ready for you. If you arrive unannounced and the archivist is busy, you may wait quite awhile for the materials you need.
Consider the Sources
University records are created to accomplish some organizational activity and communicate among participants in that activity. Records must be interpreted. They are messy, ambiguous, contradictory, redundant, and (often) missing.

Archival control organizes records by provenance, not by subject. Records of a single entity (department, committee, office) are maintained as a unit, separate from the records created by other entities. Thus, information on a given topic is dispersed among the records of all the entities that needed information related to that topic to do their jobs. What this means is that almost never is there a single source which brings together all the information available on a given topic.

A single record is part of a process which created many records. Rarely does one document make sense outside the context of related records. Consequently, the finding aids created by archivists describe records as aggregates, not as individual items. What that means is that there is no catalog or index to each of the over 20,000,000 pages held by the Archives.

Consider your own resources
Using primary source materials is time-consuming. Be realistic about meeting deadlines and about how much time you are willing to devote to your research project when you are defining its scope.
The Archives is not a library
The materials in the Archives are often fragile, always unique or rare, and usually irreplaceable. Consequently, users do not have the freedom they do in a library. For example:
  • •You will be required to fill out a visitor registration form on your first visit, providing your name, contact information, and a description of your project.
  • •Materials will be brought from storage for you to use in the reading room. You can not browse the shelves yourself.
  • •Copies will be made for you by the archivist - no self-serve copying is permitted.
  • •We do not lend materials, except under limited conditions.

Other Dos and Donts for handling materials will be explained when you arrive. All of these rules are designed to ensure the materials you are using will be available in 100 years for other users.