About citing primary sources in archives and special collections.

Research and scholarship requires citations to materials which correctly and thoroughly identify items in order to both credit the original records creators, and also to direct other researchers to the original material. Ideally, a proper citation should allow additional readers to easily discover sources consulted for further study.

The most important points to cover in a citation should include:

  1. Author, or creator’s name
  2. Title of the work
  3. Date
  4. Publication information
  5. Collection name (in-text citations are preferred for unprocessed materials.)
  6. Box and folder
  7. Repository (archive that houses the material)

Further examples of Chicago, MLA and APA styles citing archival materials at Lafayette College.

Chicago Style

Chicago style note form calls for a combination of footnotes and/or endnotes AND a Bibliography following the end of your text listing the sources you utilized in full detail. In the notes, cite the individual item, the date, identifier if there is one, collection name, and name and repository of the collection.

Note Form (footnotes or endnotes)

For example, a footnote for a letter might look like this:

1. Medicaid–Provider Taxes, 1985-1998, Box 10, Folder 13, James L. Martin papers, Special Collections and College Archives, Skillman Library, Lafayette College.

A footnote for a digital item might look like this:

Conclusion de la Campagne Liberté de 1781 en Virginie. Circa 1785, engraving, Lafayette Digital Repository, Marquis de Lafayette Prints Collection, Special Collections and College Archives, Skillman Library, Lafayette College. Accessed 16 November 2021, https://ldr.lafayette.edu/concern/images/zs25x951f

A footnote for an oral history interview might look like this:

Blake, Kim, interviewed by Richard Sharpless, June 4, 1992, Box 1, Richard Sharpless oral history interviews, Special Collections and College Archives, Skillman Library, Lafayette College.

A footnote for an item in a College Archives Record Group might look like this:

Association of Black Collegians (ABC), “Black Manifesto,” 1969, Box 1,  LCA-RG09-002, Association of Black Collegians (ABC) records, Special Collections and College Archives, Skillman Library, Lafayette College.

Bibliography

Separate primary source materials and secondary source materials with section headers. If you are citing more than one item from an archival collection, cite the collection as a whole: Collection name, Repository.

James L. Martin papers, Special Collections and College Archives, Skillman Library, Lafayette College.

If you are citing one item from a collection, cite only the individual item, the Collection name, Repository.:

Medicaid–Provider Taxes, 1985-1998, Box 10, Folder 13, James L. Martin papers, Special Collections and College Archives, Skillman Library, Lafayette College.

 

MLA Style (MLA Handbook, 8th ed.)

In-text citations

MLA style in-text citations appear in the text of the paper enclosed in parentheses, and should include enough information to point to a specific source in the works cited list. The MLA Handbook does not provide any examples of in-text citations for archival material to supplement that general guideline.

Example:

(Coffin, James H. “Synopsis of Journal,” 1827-1860)

List of Works Cited

The MLA Handbook identifies nine core elements for entries in a works cited list. Some of these elements will be infrequently used for citing archival collections, while others will almost always be used.

Structure

  • Author last name, author first name
  • Title (italicized, or quotation marks for a minor work)
  • Date of composition (omit if not shown; for uncertain dates place a question mark—e.g. 1870?)
  • Name of library, institution, or collection which houses the work, followed by the location
  • Form of the material (version) – (Manuscript or Typescript) Publisher or website (italicized)
  • URL
  • Date of access

Example:

Manuscript

Coffin, James H. (James Henry.) “Synopsis of Journal,” 1827 – 1860, Manuscript, James Henry Coffin synopsis of journal and correspondence, Special Collections and College Archives, Skillman Library, Lafayette College, Easton, PA.

Unprocessed Materials

If the material you are citing is in an unprocessed collection, provide in-text citations that include descriptions of the items and omit works-cited-list entries.


APA

Archives documents and collections are not included in the APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition. Please consult the APA Style website for more details on standards and procedures. For more information on how to cite additional archival formats, consult the APA Style page on Archival Documents and Collections.

Examples:

Letter

Lafayette to Rufus King, 13 Oct. 1797. Special Collections and College Archives, Skillman Library, Lafayette College, Easton, PA. (Marquis de Lafayette Collection. Manuscripts. Box 5, Folder 30a)

Oral history

Blake, Kim. (1992, June 4). Interviewer: Richard Sharpless. Richard Sharpless oral history interviews. Box 1. Special Collections and College Archives, Skillman Library, Lafayette College, Easton, PA.