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University Library

Archival Research

Tips for Regional Research

If you are researching a certain city, state, or region, look for major digital collections created by that city or state:

  • Try web searches for a city or state digital library, such as "California digital library" or "San Francisco digital library."
  • Search for the state library and archives commission (for instance, "California State Library") to look for major state-wide digitization initiatives.
  • Identify major universities in the area (for instance, the University of California at Berkeley or San Francisco State University if you're studying the greater San Francisco Bay Area) and check out those university websites to look for digital collections that might be helpful (tip: start at their library's page and look for phrases like "digital collections" or "special collections" or "digital archives").

Common Terminology

When searching for archives online, the term "digital archives" is not used 100% of the time. Here are some key terms that you can use in Google to help find a website that might provide you with a digital archive:

  • digital archive OR digital collection OR digital library OR digital repository
  • online archive OR online collection OR online library
  • virtual archive OR virtual collection OR virtual library

Other terms, like "online exhibit," are less reliable:

Online exhibits usually do include digitized primary sources, but generally just a few selected pieces, and usually combined with large amounts of secondary-source summary and overview. Exhibits are designed to tell a story to the public, rather than provide unbiased materials for researchers. Learn more about archives versus exhibits and tips for telling the difference.

Terms like those listed above can be paired with keywords describing your topic and used in Google Advanced Search to discover digital archives; it is also very useful to limit your Google Advanced Search to a .edu or .gov domain. 

A Few Major Digital Archives

Find more in the SSU Library's list of primary source databases at SSU.