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Archives and Special Collections: Getting Started

Overview on using archives, including definitions, collection highlights, and how to find and cite materials

Using Archives

How do archives work?

Interested in using materials from the Beloit College Archives but not sure how to do that? Not sure what archives even are? Check out this general guide from the Society of American Archivists on how to use archives.


Requesting materials and research help

Archives and Special Collections materials do not circulate. They can only be viewed in our reading room during operating hours.

Once you find a description of something you're interested in, you can drop by any time we are open, or you can submit a request via phone (608-363-2485) or email archivist Arielle Petrovich ( You can then arrange an appointment to come in and we will have the materials  waiting for you, or we can have a more in depth conversation about your research topic. Occasionally we are able to provide photocopies or scanned versions of materials.

Finding Sources

There are a number of ways to find resources in the Beloit College Archives:

1. Search for topics

You can use the college website's search box to retrieve relevant collection descriptions and finding aids, usually available as PDFs.

Many (but by no means all) archives collections—including some alumni and faculty papershave records in the library catalog. To search just archival collections, you can use the subject heading "Beloit College--History", or type "su:Beloit College History" along with your search term in the catalog search bar. For example:

You can further limit your search to "archival materials" only.

2. Browse collections

The Archives' website has lists of collection titles and descriptions, and the Beloit College Digital Collections contains many digitized versions of photographs, letters, and other materials from the Archives.

3. Contact archivists

The college archivists can help you navigate our holdings and help streamline your research. They will also alert you to any restrictions that may affect your use of particular materials.


About ArchivesSpace


ArchivesSpace is an open-source and web-based collection management system for archives and special collections. Collection management software is used by staff of a collecting institution - primarily an archives or museum, to organize, control, and manage collections/objects by tracking information related to and about the collections/objects. ArchivesSpace helps us properly describe, manage and provide access to physical and digital archival holdings, and is used by archival repositories around the world. 

To access the Beloit College Archives & Special Collections ArchivesSpace portal, please visit:

To read more about the ArchivesSpace software and community, please visit:


All definitions from Richard Pearce-Moses' Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology.

Archives: (also archive), n. ~ 1. Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control; permanent records. – 2. The division within an organization responsible for maintaining the organization's records of enduring value. – 3. An organization that collects the records of individuals, families, or other organizations; a collecting archives. – 4. The professional discipline of administering such collections and organizations. – 5. The building (or portion thereof) housing archival collections. – 6. A published collection of scholarly papers, especially as a periodical.

Finding Aid: n. ~ 1. A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records. 2. A description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials.

Notes: Finding aid includes a wide range of formats, including card indexes, calendars, guides, inventories, shelf and container lists, and registers. "Finding aid" is a single document that places the materials in context by consolidating information about the collection, such as acquisition and processing; provenance, including administrative history or biographical note; scope of the collection, including size, subjects, media; organization and arrangement; and an inventory of the series and the folders.

Manuscripts: n. (ms, abbr.) ~ 1. A handwritten document. – 2. An unpublished document. – 3. An author's draft of a book, article, or other work submitted for publication.

Personal Papers: (also personal records, private papers), n. ~ 1. Documents created, acquired, or received by an individual in the course of his or her affairs and preserved in their original order (if such order exists). – 2. Nonofficial documents kept by an individual at a place of work.

Primary Source:  n. ~ Material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness.

Notes:  Primary sources emphasize the lack of intermediaries between the thing or events being studied and reports of those things or events based on the belief that firsthand accounts are more accurate. Examples of primary sources include letters and diaries; government, church, and business records; oral histories; photographs, motion pictures, and videos; maps and land records; and blueprints. Newspaper articles contemporaneous with the events described are traditionally considered primary sources, although the reporter may have compiled the story from witnesses, rather than being an eyewitness. Artifacts and specimens may also be primary evidence if they are the object of study.