International Roots of the Civil Rights Movement: Tips for Using Boxes

Guide to navigating archives, which will be used as part of Union Theological Seminary class CE315 taught by Sarah Azaransky

Working Through an Archival Box

Before you arrive an archive, you will probably have contacted them ahead of time and probably put in a request form to set up your appointment officially.



When you arrive at the Burke Library, like many other institutions it will be required of you to store your bags and other extraneous materials in a locker. Typically you will be able to take in a pencil, laptop, phone, and a notepad. You may also wish to bring a camera and take non-flash photography of the materials to read in more detail at your convenience.

Consulting a Box:

You will be given one box at a time, no matter how many boxes you requested. When the box is placed in front of you, take note of anything written on the outside of the box.












Then, take out folder number one. Only work through one folder at a time. When you remove the folder from the box, you will want to put in the box a spacer or sheet of paper so that you do not lose track of where you are in the box.









Open the folder in front of you flat on the desk. The folders themselves will be in a specific order, but the material within the folder itself will not be in an order most likely. However, it is best to leaf through one sheet at a time, placing it face down on the opposite side of the folder. Go through the documents one at a time, making sure to handle with care.

When you are going through the materials, you will want to think about how they fit into your research or ultimate paper. How will you give credit for this primary source? The preferred citation will often be written into the finding aid, but you could also double check with archives staff. There may also be citation sheets on the table. Although you may be used to using a computer to take notes, it can be handy to have a tablet or sheet of paper to make other notes on as well.

If you take a non-flash photo of an item, keep the item flat on the desk and position so that you can see the title of the folder, series, box and folder number all in one image; this will help you in the long run if you need to go back and cite something, or double-check again in-person with the collection.

Work your way through the box in this manner, making sure folders are placed in the correct order back in the box when you are finished.