Searching Archival Collections

Once an archival collection or journal or other published source has been identified as possibly containing Jane Addams documents, an entry for that archive/collection will be created in Basecamp. In some cases we will have detailed information from the finding aid, other times we may not know the names of collections until we get to the archive.

Before You Go

Once you have been assigned to a search, contact the archive in advance to let them know that you are coming and what you are interested in. Sometimes collections are stored off-site and need to be retrieved, or the archive is going to be closed or extremely busy. It is always good to let them know in advance.

If the finding aids are available online, study them before you go, identify the most likely boxes and folders, and make a list.

At the Archive

Talk to the archivist, look at their finding aids and guides to determine which collections are likely to have materials.

Be careful to check any "new" collections against the list on the digital archive, many of the major collections were already searched and the documents were included in the microfilm. Unless there is some reason to think that documents were missed in the initial search, you should not have to re-check that collection. Give it another look if:

  • Additions were made to the collection after 1985. Check the finding aid or ask the archivist.
  • The collection was processed between 1985 and now. If the original search was done on an unprocessed collection, we should do a spot check to make sure that everything was found.

Searching a Collection

If there is a finding aid, go over the whole thing carefully, looking for the best boxes and folders to search.

  • It is helpful to know something about Addams' relations with the subject of the archival collection. Look at our microfilm to figure out when correspondence between the two began, or when an organization worked with Addams or Hull-House.
  • In collections organized by date (ex. Correspondence, Jan.-June 1901) you may need to search a lot of folders for Addams or Hull-House in order to be sure of finding everything.
  • In collections organized by name, it can be easier to locate the specific documents we need (ex. Correspondence, A-Addams, 1901-1905 or Addams, Jane, 1901-1915)
  • Don't forget to check folders on organizations — Hull-House, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and others. Often the letterhead is used to determine whether a letter by Addams written on WILPF stationary goes with "A" or with "W."
  • If material is organized by Subject, be expansive and look in any that make sense. Social work, Education, Peace, Settlements, etc.

What are You Looking for?

Primarily we are looking for correspondence and writings.

  • Any letter written to Jane Addams.
  • Any letter written by Jane Addams.
  • Any letter written on behalf of Jane Addams (a secretary, someone who starts, "I am sending you this as Miss Addams is out of town…", etc.)
  • Any article, speech, statement, etc. written by Jane Addams.
  • Minutes of meetings that Jane Addams attended.

But we should also gather materials that can be used to help our research:

  • Documents (unpublished) that discuss Jane Addams in some detail.
  • Articles about Jane Addams that we cannot get easy access to elsewhere. Clippings from newspapers that we can get online should not be copied; if needed you can check with the Project to determine whether you should copy a lot of material or just note that it is there and describe it.
  • Posters, flyers, advertisements, itineraries of her travels will help us with chronological questions.

At this point, just note and describe:

  • Organizational material about Hull-House or other Addams organizations.
  • Long works, such as an unpublished biography of Addams.

Keeping Track of What You Found

Many archives ask you to list out any documents that you want copied, often on their own forms. You can just make an extra copy of that form for the Project, or you can fill out one of the project's forms to record what you found. Open this files and "Make a Copy" and rename it for the collection and archive.


Breasted Papers-UChicago

Journal of Education

If possible (not always in the case of mail searches) indicate the box and folder where you found the originals. Write a short description of the document so that we can identify it from the copy.


JA to Graham Taylor, 9/14/1931

JA, Effects of Familiarity," 9/5/1906

Note the number of pages. That way we can make sure that we have all of them, and if something is missing later, we can tell whether the page was missing at the archives or (gulp) we lost it.

Note whether you made or ordered a copy. You can describe some materials that we don't want copied on the report, just indicate "N" in the "Copied?" column.

Ordering copies

We have a limited budget for photocopies. While we prefer to get scans of the documents, they can be far more expensive than photocopies (which we can later scan in the office). If you are not sure, let the project know how many copies you need and how much the scans cost versus photocopies, and we'll figure it out. If you can get scans free (some archives let you make them yourselves, or let you take digital photographs) do so, but try to make sure that you get good images before you leave.

Many archives will ask for payment before making the copies. If is is a small amount, you can pay for it and get reimbursed. If it is a larger amount (over $50) ask for an invoice sent to the Project and we will pay for it.

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