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Archives at Bentley: Effective Searching

Learn more about archives and special collections, including how to find historic material at the Bentley Library. Also learn about primary source research and preservation.

Where to Find Archives Material Elsewhere

Understanding Archival Guides

While some institutions have started creating searchable online guides, or organizing collections by topic/genre, most archival collections are still accessed primarily by a finding aid. See our "How to Read a Finding Aid" tab to learn how to use them effectively to find information.

On the left you can find links to other repositories that have archival collections which you can search online. Below are a few basic search strategies for navigating online databases and collections. 

Searching for Archival Material

Just as it can be difficult to find books or articles to support your research, it can be difficult to find appropriate archival resources. Most archives have someone on staff who can help you find a specific item, or tell you if they have collections that are relevant to your topic. However, if you want to do some searching on your own, particularly using online resources, here are a few quick tips. 

  • Remember that archives are organized differently.
    • Use our "How to Read a Finding Aid" tab to become skilled at browsing finding aids for items & information.

    • See if the archive has provided any Subject Guides or Research Guides that can help you narrow down collections to search.

    • Since archives do not generally group collections by topic, try to think of people, organizations, or places that might have information about your topic, then seek out archival collections concerning those.

  • When using a catalog or database, adapt your search strategies.
    • Advanced search pages often give you the option to limit your results to certain collections - like the Archives.
      • They may also allow you to search by Format/Type - look for keywords like "manuscripts" "archives" or "special collections."

    • Our "Archives & Primary Sources" tab has a list of keywords to use in your search if you want to specifically locate primary source documents.

    • If you have a broad search term and you aren't getting great results, try using the LOC Authorities to help find the "official" search term for your topic.

Subject Guide

Jaimie Fritz's picture
Jaimie Fritz
LIB 234

Bentley Archives Online