Archives 101 Tutorials

Studies have demonstrated that patrons of archives have greater success when they have a basic knowledge and understanding of archival management – what are archives and what exactly do archivists do? Here you will learn about how archivists acquire, protect, and prepare historical records for research. You’ll also discover how to find historical records and what to expect when you visit archives. This site is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of archives or the archival profession; rather, we hope it will serve as a relatively quick and easy summary that will help make your research experience fun, exciting, and productive.

You can keep up on what’s happening at the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives by visiting and following our website or the Archives’ blog The Northern Tradition.

Basic Overview of Archives Research Policies and Procedures

The following links provide a basic introduction to historical research in the archives reading room. Archival research is very different from work in a library. Libraries deal with discrete items - books - that in most cases librarians can replace if lost or damaged. In archives, researchers must conform to certain rules and expectations designed to protect historical collections from theft or damage. Researchers will also encounter collections of several, sometimes hundreds, of boxes of material that are knowable and accessible through detailed collection finding aids.  

Introduction to the Central U.P. and NMU Archives (YouTube)

Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research (Society of American Archivists)

Research Visit to the Archives (Wildcast video)

What not to do when conducting research in an archives (a humor perspective)  

Review of ArchivesSpace (Collection finding aid database)

The Central U.P. and NMU Archives staff create and manage collection finding aids using a cloud-based database program called ArchivesSpace. ASpace provides patrons with detailed information about a collection of personal papers or organizational records, including inventories of boxes and folders. Click here to access the Archives' ArchivesSpace public access page. This video provides a summary explanation for how to search and find collections using the ArchivesSpace online user interface. 

How do Archivist and Researchers find Historical Collections? 
An excellent overview of how archivists “describe” collections by creating and using narrative finding aids.  

How to use the Archives' collection finding aids database (ArchivesSpace).

Basic Archival Management Principles and Methods

Most people have a basic understanding of what librarians do, but archival management is very different. These two videos provide a useful look behind the scenes of an archives reading room. 

De-Mystifying the Archive (The Historical Cooking Project)

What do Archivists do All Day?   

Archivists deal with original, unpublished papers and records created by individuals, families, and organizations (businesses, government, and civic groups). These videos provide a short overview of how archivists prepare historical manuscript collections for public use. 

Introduction to Processing 
This short video summarizes how archivists prepare historical manuscript collections for public research.

How do Archivists Preserve Historical Collections? 
This excellent overview focuses on the preservation to paper records, discussing the threats and solutions to long-term retention of paper.

The Archival Profession

Learning to be an archivist requires a considerable amount of specialized education and training. Many archivists also obtain advanced degrees in history. 

So You Want to be an Archivist: An Overview of the Archives Profession (The Society of American Archivists)

Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics (The Society of American Archivists)

A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology (The Society of American Archivists)

The Academy of Certified Archivists

The Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA), founded in 1989 at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, is an independent, nonprofit certifying organization of professional archivists. Individual members qualify for certification by meeting a series of defined professional standards and passing an examination.