Want to work with materials in the UofA Special Collections?
If this is your first time to work in an archive, you should take note of the special rules and policies for requesting, using, and citing manuscript materials.
Take a look at their "Getting Started" guide on their web page about doing research. After reading up on the policies and procedures, prepare in advance of your visit by completing the researcher registration form.
You can always contact the archivists via email at email@example.com.
In the library catalog, WorldCat, or other library catalogs, you will usually find collection-level records that describe an entire collection of papers from one person, family, or organization.
To use a collection of any size, a researcher needs to consult the collection finding aid, a detailed inventory of the materials in the collection. Finding aids are usually organized by series, boxes, and folders. Often finding aids are available on an archive's web site.
Searching for manuscript collections by topic can be tricky. Many collections of family or business papers might have fascinating information about social or economic history, historic events or periods, or past practices and beliefs. However, the collection-level records that describe the collection may not go onto that level of detail.
Try to think about your research topic by the kinds of records that might illuminate the subject. For example, if you are interested in women in the south, there may not be a collection with that exact subject description. But we have many collections of records from women's social and extension clubs that could provide very rich source material for that topic.
When reading secondary sources - articles and books - on your topic, browse the footnotes to consider the kinds of sources the author consulted. You may find similar materials here or at other libraries.