**Beginning 3/07/2022 Biddle Archives will be reopening for on-site research visits. Please allow two weeks notice for scheduling research appointments.
What is an archives?
An archives is a repository that houses materials of enduring value. Similar terms you might have heard include the singular “archive,” “manuscript repository,” or “records center.”
What’s in an archives?
Archives can contain any unit of enduring historical, research, or evidentiary value. These items include letters, memoranda, photographs, meeting minutes, publications, and organizational material.
What’s in Biddle’s archives?
The Archives of the Biddle Law Library contains a mixture of personal papers (also referred to as “manuscript collections”) and organizational records.
How are archives organized?
Unlike traditional reference and circulating collections, archival collections usually consist of unpublished material. Furthemore, most of this material is unbound and has not been indexed. For these reasons, organization of archives can very greatly from collection to collection, depending on the organizational behaviors of those people who maintained the collections prior to donating them to the archives.
How are archives housed?
Due to the likelihood of loose leaf papers, archival collections are generally contained in file folders. File folders are placed into boxes.
How are archives described?
Identifying each and every letter in an archival collection is both time-consuming and counterintuitive to the part-to-whole relationship of archival collections. Therefore, archival materials are generally grouped according to broader categories called “series.” For example, one series in a collection might be “Correspondence,” while another series in the same collection might be “Meetings,” and so forth. Series can be divided into “subseries,” too; for example, the “Correspondence” series may include the subseries “Personal” and “Professional.” Series are grouped based on anticipated relevance to the researcher.
Where to find archival collections at the Biddle Law Library:
Archival research generally follows the process of traditional historical research methods. Requests are made to the archivist, who retrieves materials and presents them to the researcher. The researcher sits down at the table with a box and proceeds to comb through folders, identifying items of relevance. At the end of the session, the archivist and the researcher discuss photocopying requests if necessary.
Why should I conduct research at an archives?
Virtually all substantial historical scholarship has come from the use of primary, or archival, materials. While the consultation of journals, treatises, and mongraphs provides much useful information, those organs are essentially interpretations of the historical record. Any researcher who is serious about making a substantial contribution to the realm of academic scholarship should consider consulting archival materials in an effort to present a fresh interpretation of past events.
Using a finding aid is your first step to accessing an archival collection. Finding aids are essentially "road maps" to a collection, in other words, they provide you with the necessary information for identifying collections or parts of a collection that are relevant to your research.
Steps for using a finding aid: