Yes, Viriginia, There Are Even More Ways to Search for Primary Sources

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Yes, Viriginia, There Are Even More Ways to Search for Primary Sources

2012-06-13 14:46


As teachers, we are used to card catalogs, be they physical or virtual, for finding materials in a library.  Archives have additional methods that teachers and students can use to search for primary sources on a subject.   This blog will talk about HSP's finding aids and subject guides.

Finding aids follow a certain pattern, some of which is unfamiliar to non-archivists.  But once you understand the structure, you will see that you can use a finding aid to learn about a person, corporation, or organization.  For example, the "Background" section of family papers often contains genealogical material.  The "Scope and Contents" describes the kinds of materials and topics within the collection.  The "Series Detail" goes into this information in more depth by exploring what kinds of materials and topics are in each folder, volume, or box.  Finding aids even include short bibliographies where students can find other sources as well as information on how to write a citation for the collection. 

Some of HSP's finding aids currently are available online, though they represent only a small portion of our holdings.  New ones are added all the time; check out the New in the Library blog to discover new ones as they are put online.

Subject guides cut across collections to let you know what materials we have on a subject - subjects as broad as African American and as narrow as Women During the Civil War.  Each subject guide usually gives some sort of background to the topic and then lists the collections at HSP that have material on the subject.  The material in the collection related to the subject is described.

Just reading the Background sections of finding aids and the collection descriptions in subject guides is an education!  You might consider assigning them to students not just for research value but also as secondary sources. Reading them would count toward the Common Core goal of increasing non-fiction reading.


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