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Archives - What They Are and How to Use Them

This is a general guide to using archival materials - what they are, where to find them, how they are organized, and how to use them. For questions about using the ISU Special Collections and University Archives specifically, click the "questions" tab.


In general:

  • Determine what you have by looking through all of the materials. Make a note of whether the materials are paper, photos or slides, films, audio, artifacts, and/or digital storage media (CDs, Floppies, etc.)
  • Make notes on anything you know about the materials: who made/wrote it, who owned it, the year, the event, where it took place. Either create a list of these notes or write (in pencil and gently) this information on the back of the photograph, on the label of the floppy, or on the container housing the items.
  • Make notes on the people involved: their full names, their birth and death dates, their spouses and children, their parents, where they lived, and what they did. You may find it helpful to use a genealogy chart. For tips on how to conduct geneaological research, see our genealogy guide.

Resources for Identifying

Contact Us

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Special Collections & University Archives
403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University Library
Ames, IA 50011
515 294-6672