Selectors: Meghan Courtney and Gavin Strassel
October is American Archives Month! Use this guide to learn more about what archives are and how to use them.
Check your favorite social media accounts for #askanarchivist! Ask an Archivist Day is October 5.
An archives collects firsthand facts and evidence documenting the past. The materials in the archives are the direct product of people and/or institutions and their work. These are known as primary sources, meaning that they exist without someone else’s historical interpretation. The items may take the form of correspondence, memoranda, notes, meeting minutes, flyers, photographs, audio and visual recordings, and other formats. These primary source materials are arranged and described by the archives to facilitate use by researchers.
Archival collections are most often named for their creators. Start your research by consulting with a reference archivist about your topic and reading the finding aid for the suggested collections.
Photo: Cesar Chavez and Dr. Philip Mason, the Reuther Library's first director, in 1968.
Dr. Annabel Tong (foreground), operates a computer for a Society of Women Engineers 1966 career guidance slide show. From the Society of Women Engineers Collection at the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs.
Wayne State University is home to the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs. The Reuther contains the official records of Wayne State University, and millions of documents related to the American labor movement and community life in metropolitan Detroit. The majority of these items are originals that exist nowhere else in the world.
Researchers can access over 1500 historically significant collections, but some of our more researched topics include:
The Reuther Library is open to any researcher Monday-Friday 10-4.
The Reuther Library YouTube Channel contains a growing set of moving image clips documenting Detroit's history, like the above footage from Detroit's 1967 Civil Unrest.
Students at WSU's Monteith College, 1961.
Primary sources are popular in various disciplines because they offer students a chance to practice critical thinking skills and draw their own conclusions about sources of information. They're also central to Common Core educational guidelines in Social Studies areas. A number of organizations provide primary source document sets for use in classes: