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Tips for Researchers

General Tips: Plan, Plan, Plan

It is advisable to call or e-mail ahead of your visit to discuss your research with a staff member. The staff will also be able to refer you to other repositories with relevant collections. This will enable you to make the best use of your valuable research time.

You also need to make allowances for offsite storage requests. It takes at least 24 hours before storage material is available in Special collections.

Archival Language

What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source?

A primary source is firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. A secondary source is created when an individual writes about the primary source findings and puts together a story about the past.

What is provenance?

The provenance is the origin of a particular collection, not to be intermingled with those materials from other collections even if they concern the same individual or organization.

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is an unpublished guide to a collection that provides historical information on the organization and activities of an agency or biographical information on the individuals who created the collection. The aid also includes an overview of the collection materials, identifies related in-house collections and provides an inventory of the contents of each box within the collection.

Collection Labeling

There are five different designations of manuscript materials:

MC Manuscript Collection: i.e. a group of materials, correspondence, papers, diaries, notebooks from one source (personal papers, organizational documents).
MS Manuscript item or items: i.e. one or two letters, papers, diaries.
UA University Archives: i.e. records, correspondence pertaining to the University of New Hampshire Community.
UV University Archives Visual Collection: i.e. photographs, videotape, film, and other visual formats.
VC Audio/visual collection – i.e. a collection of recordings, photographs, slides, posters.

Useful Links

History Matters: Making Sense of the Evidence provides strategies for using various primary resources and information on how scholars analyze different kinds of primary resources.

How to Use Primary Resources utilizes Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s work with Martha Ballard’s diary to demonstrate how scholars delve into the past.

History Toolkit offers research tips and forms that shed light on what you need to know to take advantage of different documents and sources.

How to Read 18th Century Handwriting provides tools necessary to understand early documents.