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Manuscripts and Archives: Plan your visit

Quick introduction to what manuscripts and archives are, and how to find them.

Visiting a special library or archive

Because archives and manuscripts are often irreplaceable, valuable, and fragile, most archives and manuscript libraries have special rules about their use. This means it can be a different experience from visiting your local branch library: 
  • Rather than browsing the shelves, identify boxes you wish to consult from a finding aid or catalogue and then request the material from special climate controlled storage areas.
  • Instead of  borrowing items, consult them in a reading room.
  • Help preserve items being used in the reading room (no food or drink, put away bags in lockers, and use conservation equipment like white gloves and book pillows).
  • Protect the materials from being marked, use pencils instead of pens, and acid free paper instead of post-it notes.
  • Check the access conditions of collections. While many will be open access, some require special permissions or can only be accessed after a certain date.
  • Remember that most of the material will be unpublished, so you will often need to organise copyright permission before taking a photograph or requesting a scan.
  • Many archives or special libraries require you to register as a user, provide a form of ID, or letter of introduction.
  • It's often useful to contact archives or library before your visit, especially if you have any questions about a collection or it is your first visit.

Image of external view Fryer Library

Fryer Library is located on the fourth floor of
Duhig tower (building 2), St Lucia campus.

Visit checklist

Here are the top 5 things to ask when planning a trip to a special library or archives.

Check an institution's webpage or contact them to confirm the process for a particular archive or library. For more information and examples from Fryer Library, click on the question.

+ Do you need to request items prior to your visit?

+ Do you need to register as a user?

+ Are there any restrictions?

+ What can you bring with you?

+ What is the process for making copies?

Helpful resources for working with manuscripts and archival records