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Research Services: Introduction to Archives

What are Archives?


Archives are organizations dedicated to preserving the documentary heritage of a particular group. Archives help collect, preserve, and provide access to these records through the work of archivists, trained professionals with expertise in managing records of enduring value. 

Archival collections can contain anything and everything from written manuscripts to photographs to video tapes to artifacts to digital materials. In research, these collections often function as primary sources, or documents produced during a period under study. They help provide firsthand accounts of people, places, things, and events, acting as valuable evidence to help reconstruct and interpret the past. 

Why Visit an Archive?

You might visit an archive for sources for an academic paper, to research your family tree, or to learn more about the people, places, and events that interest you!

Archives also hold the tools to help keep institutions and people in power accountable. By supplying access to records, archives provide transparency into the decision-making processes of individuals and institutions.

Types of Archives

What's in an archive is oftentimes tied to the group or community it serves. Some examples of different types of archives are: 

How to Find Archival Material

For items related to McDaniel College, begin by searching the McDaniel College Archives' catalog. 

If you are interested in researching topics related to local or state history, visit our Resources for Local Research page. 

To get started locating archival collections, explore the following resources: 

For more help, visit the Society of American Archivists', Finding and Evaluating Archives

Graphics designed by Erin Pogue ('20).