J6002-039: Shoe Leather - Multi-Casting Investigative Techniques: Archives

Journalism & Government Information Librarian

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Emily Schmidt
204A Pulitzer Hall

Archives for Background and Research

Archives are distinguishable in the following ways. Archives deal with rare and unique materials that provide insight into a person, place, or thing. Archives can be physical collections or digital collections and more frequently some combination of the two. Use these qualities to identify the appropriate type of archive for your research.

Physical Archives v. Digital Collections

  • Mostly Physical (online finding aids only)
  • Mostly Digital (photographed/scanned facsimiles and/or born-digital only--may or may not have a physical reading room)
  • Hybrid (some combination of physical/digital)

Content Format

  • Literature: Letters, Memos, Diaries, Documents
  • Media: Photography, Illustrations, Video, Audio, Animation
  • Ephermera: This could be literally anything. Often personal items.   

Archive Scope

  • Single person or family
  • Individual Company or Organization
  • Institutional Archives or Depositories


  • When are the archives open?
  • Can anyone visit the archives?
  • How much is available online vs. only accessible in person?
  • Are you allowed to copy, reproduce, photograph, or scan? Can you do it yourself?
  • Are there costs associated with copying/reproduction?
  • Will you need certain technology?

Locating Archives

Access to archival databases (AAD) system
‚ÄčThe Access to Archival Databases (AAD) System gives you online access to electronic records at the National Archives that are highly structured, such as in databases. The series selected for AAD identify specific persons, geographic areas, organizations, or dates. Some of these series serve as indexes to accessioned archival records in non-electronic formats.

ArchiveGrid [electronic resource]
Thousands of libraries, museums, and archives have contributed nearly a million collection descriptions to ArchiveGrid. Researchers searching ArchiveGrid can learn about the many items in each of these collections, contact archives to arrange a visit to examine materials, and order copies.

Physical Archives

Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn Historical Society is a nationally recognized urban history center dedicated to preserving and encouraging the study of Brooklyn's extraordinary 400-year history.

Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The Rare Book & Manuscript Library is Columbia University’s principal repository for special collections. Located on the 6th floor of Butler Library, includes access to Columbia University Archival Collections Portal, University Archives, and Oral History Portal. 

New York City Municipal Archives
The Municipal Archives preserves and makes available New York City government's historical records. Our collections date from 1645 to the present. Records include office records, manuscripts, still and moving images, vital records, maps, blueprints, and sound recordings.

New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts
The New York Public Library holds nearly 10,000 archival and manuscript collections comprising over 50,000 linear feet of material in nearly every format imaginable. They preserve evidence (often unique and unpublished) of human activity and achievement that forms a basis for the study of political, social, economic, and cultural history. 

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem is one of the world’s leading cultural institutions devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. 

Digital Archives / Digital Collections

60 minutes : 1997-2014
Provides streaming video access to the 60 Minutes news show archive for the third and fourth decades of this long-running show, plus segments from the CBS News program Sunday Morning. Includes transcripts of the videos for ease of citation, and a citation export featore. 

American Archive of Public Broadcasting
Access to a collection of American public radio and television content dating back to the 1950s. More than 7,000 historic public radio and television programs are available for streaming and data records for approximately 2.5 million items inventoried by public broadcasting stations for this project. Includes WNYC digitized archives.

AP Images
Associated Press archive of over photographs from 1844 to the present, audio files of radio broadcasts, text of wire stories, and info-graphics.

Columbia University Archival Collections Portal
This portal provides access to descriptions of all archival collections cataloged in Columbia University Libraries' online public access catalog, including links to finding aids, collection overviews and available digital content, such as online exhibits and images, as well as oral history interviews.

Getty search gateway
The Getty Search Gateway allows users to search across several of the Getty repositories, including collections databases, library catalogs, collection inventories, and archival finding aids.

Internet archive [electronic resource]
The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format; [the Archive] includes texts, audio, moving images, and software. Includes Wayback Machine for viewing web pages removed from the Internet, archives of images, sound files, music, texts.

New York City Municipal Image Collections
The New York City Municipal Archives online gallery includes over 870,000 images. Selected from the world-class historical collections of the Archives.