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Dr. Susan Sage Heinzelman, Director 2505 University Avenue, A4900, Burdine Hall 536, Austin Texas 78712 • 512-471-5765

Step 3: View the Collection

Anzaldua papers

The papers of author and activist Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa. Image courtesy of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Physical Collections

Have you chosen to view a physical collection at one of the archives on campus? Visit the repository's website to familiarize yourself with the location, hours, and policies:

Allow plenty of time for your first visit to the archives.  Don't wait until just before your assignment is due!  Let the staff know you're a first-time archives visitor.  They might give you a short orientation.

Unlike libraries, which usually contain published works that can be replaced, archives contain rare and unique materials that are often irreplaceable.  For this reason, archival materials cannot be checked out. 

You will view items in a reading room, which has special rules to protect the materials:

  • Store your belongings in the locker or shelf provided.
  • Use only pencils or laptops, not pens, to take notes.
  • Use only notepaper that has been cleared for entry by the staff.  Some archives provide special yellow paper, or paper marked with a stamp.

The organization of materials in an archives can be unfamiliar.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Archival items are usually kept in folders, which are kept in boxes. 
  • Archives have closed stacks, so rather than browsing through shelves, you'll ask the archives staff to retrieve a few folders or boxes at a time.
  • Ask the archives staff to see the finding aid for your collection, and use it to choose a few folders that look potentially useful.  Request them by box number and folder number using a paper call slip (at the Benson Latin American Collection or the Briscoe Center for American History) or an online research account (at the Harry Ransom Center).

Feel free to approach the reference desk and ask the archivists questions.  If you're ever unsure about what to do next, just ask!

Online Collections

Have you chosen to view an online collection?  Once you've found the link to an online collection, you are usually just a few clicks away from watching a video, examining an archived website, or viewing digital documents.  Don't forget to ask for help if you're having trouble.  Talk to your professor, visit a library or archives, or call the reference desk at a library or archives.  Or if you're affiliated with UT-Austin, chat online with a librarian.

Go to Step 4: Conduct Research

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