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Getting Started with Archives: Using the Catalog

This guide serves as an introduction to locating and evaluating collection description, and beginning archival research at NYPL

The research catalog -- catalog.nypl.org

The catalog provides collection-level description for archives and manuscripts across The New York Public Library. A basic search can be narrowed to Author, Title, or Subject. You can also select "Archives and Manuscripts" at the top of the collection dropbar. This will exclude printed collections of primary sources.

Basic search bar with Archives and Manuscripts highlighted

Narrowing search results

Searches in the catalog yield results across NYPL. If a search yields too many results, fields can be added or changed by using theundefinedbutton at the top of the page.


The "Modify" or "Limit" buttons open the catalog's advanced search, where additional terms can be added using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT).

 

Specific reading rooms can be selected using the "Location" list - helpful if a researcher can only visit one Library center.

 

The "Material type" and "Language" fields are only somewhat useful - these have only been applied to the most recently cataloged collections, so will not return results that were cataloged earlier.

 

The "Within" limit allows researchers to provide a date range for search results.

Advanced search page with archival reading rooms highlighted

Interpreting search results

Catalog records contain information essential to placing a request and accessing archives. The "Location" points a researcher to the department responsible for the care of a collection. Click on the location hyperlink to access hours specific to a department, to contact department staff for more information, or to arrange a visit.

Basic search return for Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker diary (ice cream search result)

A full catalog record also includes hyperlinks connecting material by the same Author or on the same Subject. Clicking on these links will perform a new search without any limits. Once you are on the new results page, "Modify" or "Limit" results back to collection, type, or time period.

 

The catalog records often provide a link if an item is available digitally, or if there is additional descriptive information (such as a finding aid) elsewhere, as below.

Example of link to finding aid in a catalog record