MUSIC 5611's Guide to Archives and Primary Source Research

The Basics

Some basic definitions you should know, courtesy of the Society of American Archivists:

  • Archives: "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."
  • Collection: "1. A group of materials with some unifying characteristic. - 2. Materials assembled by a person, organization, or repository from a variety of sources; an artificial collection."
  • Finding Aid: "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."
  • Primary Source: "Material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness."

What Are Archives?

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Analyzing Primary Sources

2020 Q&A with Cecily and Maura

Last Updated: Sep 21, 2023 4:40 PM