A large chunk of the PhD work depends upon archival research for many of the scholars. A lot can be retrieved out of archives, at both local as well as international level. The first thing that needs to be understood is the difference between archives and libraries. For those who think otherwise, Archives are not Libraries and more than often it is not possible to come up and find exactly what you are looking for.
Archives have to be approached with a few tips. Here they are:
- Always enquire from the archive if they have your desired material
- The procedure for archives vary from each other so find ways to get your material prepared in advance
- Double check the opening time
- Keep a lot of buffer time in hand as you may end up finding a lot of interesting material which you may be tempted to explore further
Almost all the archives do not give access without some identification from the university in terms of a badge or a card. In addition sometimes, even a recommendation letter from the supervisor is also needed. It should incorporate details about your course, funding body , the title of the project and the purpose behind using the archive.
It isn’t easy and simple to access archives. Often the rules and regulations at the archives can be annoying. With all the patience you need to do the enquiry well in advance. Some of the most commonly found restrictions and rules at archives can be:
- Some archives may not allow you to take in a bag or coat. Big archives do provide locker facility but if there is no locker then you need to find a place to keep your belongings safe
- Most of the archives do not allow pen and markers. Always carry pencils and erasers else you would feel handicapped for the most trivial of reason
- Archives do not allow food and beverages and sometimes do not even offer a cafeteria option
Before actually visiting an archive it is important to plan and be organised and keep a record of the gathered material so that a later stage no double checking of facts is required. Make sure to write down small details like dates and page number of the relevant content. Sometimes when you are visiting an archive overseas, it is all the more important to enhance the level of preparation because of the paucity of time. Some issues with using archives overseas could be with non-familiarity of technology and culture. What is required is to select the contact in advance and keep the recommendation letter and all details handy so that the scheduling gets executed without any hassle.