Guides to Repositories and Archives


Archive Finder. ProQuest, 1997– . 9 Oct. 2012. <>. Updated regularly. Formerly ArchivesUSA. (Selected records can be searched through C19: The Nineteenth Century Index [M2466].)

Consists of

  • a guide to more than 5,600 archives, repositories, and some private collections in the United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland that hold manuscripts (including microfilms of originals in foreign or private collections), photographs, sound recordings, films, drawings, and other materials. (Entries for repositories include address and telephone number; e-mail address and URL; information on access; statistics on holdings; a brief general description of the collection and links to entries for named collections; and references to catalogs, guides, or descriptions. Entries for collections include collection name, repository, type and amount of documents, and description of contents.)

  • records from NUCMC (F295) and the Index to Personal Names (F295a) and Index to Subjects and Corporate Names (F295a)

  • records from National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United States (NIDS; Ann Arbor: UMI, 1982– ) and National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United Kingdom and Ireland (NIDS UK/Ireland; Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1985– )

  • records submitted directly by repositories

  • links to online finding aids

Repositories can be searched by name, location (city or state; county for the United Kingdom), country, and holdings keyword; results can be sorted by repository name or location. Collections can be searched by keyword, collection name, repository name, repository location (city or state; county for the United Kingdom), country, NIDS or NIDS UK/Ireland number, NUCMC number, index terms, and date; searches can be limited to NIDS UK records, NIDS US records, NUCMC records, or submitted records. Results can be sorted by collection or repository name or by date (ascending).

Since this is a guide to repositories and archives, holdings are described in general terms; however, researchers will find the work an essential source for identifying institutions that might own manuscripts related to an author or a subject. Reviews: (ArchivesUSA) James Watson, Charleston Advisor 8.4 (2007): 13–16 (; Sarah Spurgin Witte, College and Research Libraries 59.2 (1998): 179–81 (

ArchiveGrid ( is an important complement to Archive Finder because it includes collections from around the world.

Although now largely superseded by Archive Finder, Directory of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the United States, 2nd ed. (Phoenix: Oryx, 1988; 853 pp.) and Philip M. Hamer, ed., A Guide to Archives and Manuscripts in the United States (New Haven: Yale UP, 1961; 775 pp.)—the original version of the Directory containing fuller descriptions of holdings—remain useful for institutions that did not contribute information to Archive Finder.


Foster, Janet, and Julia Sheppard, eds. British Archives: A Guide to Archive Resources in the United Kingdom. 4th ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002. 815 pp. CD1040.F67 027.541.

A guide to the archival holdings, as of late 2001, of British record offices, libraries, public and private institutions, associations, businesses, and societies. Organized alphabetically by town, then by repository name, entries typically provide address, phone and fax numbers, e-mail addresses, Web site, and contact person; hours of operation and details of any restrictions on access; a brief history of the organization or repository; an overview of acquisitions policies, archival holdings, major collections, and important nonmanuscript holdings; a list of finding aids and publications about the repository or holdings; and information on available facilities (e.g., photocopying). Since entries are based on responses to a questionnaire, descriptions, especially of holdings and collections, inevitably vary in thoroughness and specificity. Concludes with three appendixes: organizations whose archives are deposited elsewhere; organizations without archives; and organizations on whose archives the editors could supply no information. Two indexes: repository names, organizations, and collections; subjects (derived from a checklist sent to repositories). Although reflecting the shortcomings attendant upon any guide necessarily dependent on questionnaires, British Archives offers a wealth of information and is the essential starting place for identifying repositories and archival collections in the British Isles.

More current information about hours, contact information (including e-mail address and Web site URL), access policy, and location (some entries link to a digital streetmap)—as well as links to National Register of Archives (F285a) resources for an archive—can be found at the Historical Manuscripts Commission ARCHON Directory (


The National Archives”. Kew, Richmond, Surrey. <>.

A repository of government, legal, institutional, and family records and manuscripts associated with the United Kingdom or relating to British history from the eleventh century to the present. The National Archives was formed in April 2003 by amalgamating the Public Record Office (PRO) and the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts; Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and the Office of Public Sector Information were added later.

With its extensive holdings of governmental, political, civil, legal, and ecclesiastical records, the National Archives is an essential and sometimes lengthy stop for many literary biographers. In advance of any visit, researchers can save valuable time by consulting the institution’s informative Web site, where they can do the following:

  1. find current information for readers (click on the Visit Us tab on the About Us page for valuable advice on planning a visit and instructions on registering for the required reader’s ticket)

  2. receive valuable guidance for the researcher new to the National Archives (click on the Records tab)

  3. learn about the nature and organization of the classes of records they need to consult (an essential prelude to searching the catalog effectively) and identify any published or digital transcripts and finding aids (path: About Us/Records/Catalogues and Online Records/Discovery/Research Guides)

  4. search the online catalog and request documents in advance

  5. search other catalogs (especially the National Register of Archives and ARCHON [F283a])

For an illuminating discussion of the public records as a source of literary texts and biographical information, see A. D. Harvey, “The Public Record Office in London as a Source for English Literary Studies,” Etudes anglaises 43.3 (1990): 303–16. For an introduction to the investigation of suits in the Court of Exchequer (and their heretofore-unrecognized value to literary researchers and biographers), see Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, “Eighteenth-Century Equity Lawsuits in the Court of Exchequer as a Source for Historical Research,” Historical Research 70.172 (1997): 231–46.

Although now subsumed in the National Archives, the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (Historical Manuscripts Commission; HMC) has published (since 1870) an important but bewildering array of reports, appendixes, calendars, and editions of collections that are not available in electronic form. The best conspectus of these publications is offered by Mullins, Texts and Calendars (M1370), and Mortimer, Texts and Calendars (M1370). In addition, four guides broadly index places and persons mentioned in documents described or calendared in published volumes:

  • A Guide to Reports on Collections of Manuscripts of Private Families, Corporations, and Institutions in Great Britain and Ireland. Pt. 1: Topographical. London: HMSO, 1914. 233 pp.

  • Guide to the Reports of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1870–1911. Pt. 2: Index of Persons. Ed. Francis Bickley. 2 vols. 1935–38.

  • Guide to the Reports of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1911–1957. Pt. 1: Index of Places. Ed. A. C. S. Hall. 1973. 536 pp.

  • Guide to the Reports of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1911–1957. Pt. 2: Index of Persons. Ed. Hall. 3 vols. 1966.

Users must remember that these works are only general indexes and not cumulations of indexes in individual volumes. The reports on collections range from hastily prepared brief descriptions in haphazard order to full calendars that carefully transcribe entire documents or generous extracts. Although varying widely in accuracy and thoroughness, the guides and reports provide the best access to important private collections (some of which are now in public repositories), and many preserve the only record of documents subsequently destroyed, lost, or inaccessible to researchers. For current locations, researchers should consult Guide to the Location of Collections Described in the Reports and Calendars Series, 1870–1980, Guides to Sources for British History 3 (London: HMSO, 1982, 69 pp.).

In 1945 the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts established the National Register of Archives (NRA; to collect and index lists and reports of private collections. These finding aids, which vary considerably in detail and sophistication, can be identified through the NRA catalog at the National Archives Web site (users should note that the catalog includes only the finding aids and not the collections’ contents). For a description of the National Register of Archives and accessibility to its holdings, see Dick Sargent, ed., “The National Register of Archives,” The National Register of Archives: An International Perspective (London: U of London, Inst. of Historical Research, 1995), 1–43.


Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. National Archives. Natl. Archives and Records Administration, n.d. 9 Oct. 2012. <>. Regularly updated. An online, updated version of Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Comp. Robert B. Matchette. 3 vols. Washington: Natl. Archives and Records Administration, 1995.

A descriptive guide to governmental and other records under the jurisdiction of the National Archives. This excludes material held in presidential libraries. Organized by record group (i.e., government agency), the brief entry for each group or class of records typically includes a descriptive title, inclusive dates, quantity, location, notes (on content, type or purpose of documents, completeness, or organization), and finding aids. Each agency or department is prefaced by a description of the history, administration, organization, or other details necessary to understanding the nature of its records. Indexed by names, organizations, and subjects. The text can be searched by keyword or record group number, or browsed by the index or record group. Accessions and the opening of records are reported in Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration (1969– , quarterly;, which also prints articles on holdings; in the Record: News from the National Archives and Records Administration (1994–98, 5/yr.); and at The bulk of this massive accumulation of documents relates to administrative matters, but there is considerable material on individuals that is too rarely explored by literary biographers. Although lacking the tradition of important discoveries made in the Public Record Office and thus not as well known to literary researchers, the National Archives repositories are an obligatory stop for biographers of writers associated with the federal government, whether by election, through employment, or under surveillance.

The Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States is gradually being replaced by Archival Research Catalog (ARC) (, which frequently provides fuller descriptions and covers presidential libraries. Results for many searches of Guide to Federal Records include a link to ARC.

Prucha, Handbook for Research in American History (Q3185a), has a useful overview of the National Archives, and Sears, Using Government Information Sources, Electronic and Print (Q3190), outlines strategies for searching National Archives materials.

See also

Sec. E: Libraries and Library Catalogs/Research Libraries/Guides to Libraries.

Albinski, “Guide to the Archives of Publishers, Journals, and Literary Agents in North American Libraries” (U5242).

Brodersen et al., A Guide to Book Publishers’ Archives (U5242a).

Canadian Publishers’ Records database (U5242a).

Fraser, Children’s Authors and Illustrators (U5465).

Schatz, Directory of Afro-American Resources (Q3730).

Weedon, British Book Trade Archives, 1830–1939 (U5243).