Research at the Archives

Tips if you’re planning to do some research in our collections or in the Rare Books collection. This turned out longer than I intended, so here’s a list of topics at a glance. If your question isn’t listed here, please contact us!

I’m not a university student or faculty member. Can I access your materials? // What are your hours? // Do I need to make an appointment? // Will you do research for me? // What if I can’t come in to do my research? // Can I interlibrary loan materials? // Can I copy materials? // Why do you charge for copies? // Is everything online? // How do I figure out what you have?

I’m not a university student or faculty member. Can I access your materials?

Absolutely. Depending on the academic schedule, parking may be a challenge, so you’re always welcome to call us for advice on a good time to visit if you need to access materials here.

What are your hours?

Our normal hours are 10-4, Monday to Friday. If we know of any upcoming closures, we post them on the main page of our website.

Do I need to make an appointment?

We only ask for appointments under two conditions: if you need hours outside our normal schedule or if you want to access a collection that may have some sort of access restrictions on it.

If you can only visit outside our normal hours, you’ll need to make an appointment. Please call us at least a week in advance. We’re often able to accommodate after-hours or weekend appointments, but since this may require we shift some work schedules, the more lead time we have, the more likely we will be able to accommodate your request. You can call us at 907-786-1849 to arrange your appointment.

If the archival collection you want to use has access restrictions on it, the good news is that all of our collections with use restrictions have a note in the guide to the collection that says so. We don’t have a lot of these. If you review the finding aid/guide to the collection, you’ll see that note listed. It will look something like this: “Access restrictions: Materials in the collection may be subject to privacy restrictions. Requests to use the material must be made in advance of a research visit.” Rare Books do not have access restrictions although really fragile ones might come with some use instructions.

Will you do research for me?

We’re happy to work with you to identify possible archival collections that might relate to your research topic. We can even look in a few folders if what you’re seeking is fairly obvious from the collection description posted on our website. Our role as faculty archivists in an educational institution is to teach people how to do research and so if your question might need more than about a half hour of looking through collection materials or requires an in-depth understanding of your research topic, this will probably be beyond our ability to accommodate. We know that it is not always easy to predict how long something will take, so please contact us and let us know–if it’s more than we can do, we’ll let you know.

What if I can’t come in to do my research? Can I pay you to do it for me?

We aren’t able to do research for hire, but we can always recommend local researchers-for-hire who may be able to assist you with your request. We may also be able to recommend online archival collections or materials you can access at a distance more easily.

Can I interlibrary loan materials?

Rare Books: you’re in luck. We will interlibrary loan most Rare Books. This comes with some rules applied, as you might expect. Your borrowing library will most likely have to be able to provide a secured storage place for the book and you will need to use the book under the supervision of a library worker. Copying may be restricted. Fragile rare books may not be available for ILL.

For archival materials: not at this time. We haven’t figured out a safe enough mechanism to transport one-of-a-kind, unique materials with many many pieces to other institutions and at this time we don’t have a budget to cover transport of this kind.

Can I copy materials?

Usually yes. It really depends on the collection. We often allow you to take photographs with a point-and-shoot camera or your cell phone. We have an extra form for you to fill out if you want to do that and a few instructions, too. We don’t allow you to use personal scanners or copiers. We can always copy or scan materials for you, but as you might expect, there are costs involved. Our fee structure is listed here, and we’re always willing to give you an estimate and explain possible options.

Some things we and you simply can’t copy: they may have restrictions because of personally identifiable information such as social security numbers or medical information. Or it may be that copyright status prevents us from copying extensive amounts of material from a collection. Again, we’re always willing to talk with you about options, so please ask.

Why do you charge for copies?

This is a really important question and it varies from archives to archives. In our case, the University and the Library fund the personnel time for the department, pay to keep the lights on, our phone number, our email system, and the HVAC systems and so forth. But what they don’t fund is our archival supplies. Boxes. Folders. Photo enclosures. Gloves for handling touch-sensitive (or dirty) materials. All of our scanning equipment. In short, the things that allow us to provide the best preservation atmosphere for the one-of-a-kind materials in our holdings and that allows us to digitize them for you to see online. That all has to be re-earned through sales of copies and scans and our very rare charging of commercial use fees. So when you pay for copies, it’s not going back into the general university budget, it’s going directly into the preservation of materials here.

Is everything online?

Our website has guides to all of our collections that are accessible. The Consortium Library catalog has a listing for each of the Rare Books. Often the original materials themselves are not online. We do not have the personnel, funding, or time to make all of the materials in our collections available online. Additionally, many of our collections have copyright restrictions that prevent us from making the entire collections available digitally.  If you have any questions about online availability of our materials, please ask.

How do I figure out what you have?

If you like to look for yourself, we have guides to all of our collections on our website. You can always browse them or our subject guides through the Collections link on the main webpage or you can use the search box on any of our site pages to keyword search for specific terms. If you’re having difficulty finding anything useful, please contact us. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right search terms, narrowing or broadening your search terms, or thinking up a different way of searching. We still have a few collection guides on our website that haven’t been revised to our current standard form and those can occasionally be hard to navigate, so if you’re having any difficulties trying to figure out a collection guide, please contact us and we’ll see what we can do to assist (they sometimes confuse us, too).