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Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs

The Walter P. Reuther Library collects and facilitates access to historical documentary evidence in order to inspire academic research, serve the information needs of the community, and build knowledge at Wayne State University.


The Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, located on the campus of Wayne State University in Detroit, contains millions of primary source documents related to the history of the labor movement, urban affairs, and the Wayne State University Archives. The building is named for UAW President and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) President Walter Reuther. 

Like all archives, our material is arranged into collections based on their origins. If you are working with the Wayne State University English Department Records, for example, you can assume that all the material in that collection was gathered together and used by the WSU English Department in their normal functions as an organization.

Working with archives can be a lot like a journalistic iinvestigation into your research topic, so try to treat everything as a clue. Remember, each archival document is a piece of evidence of the past, so you likely need to look at many sources to understand an event.

Explore our three collecting areas in the tabs at the lefthand side of this page to learn more.

What are Archives?

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.

Archives arrange materials into collections, meaning that all the material in the group came from one person or organization. This information can help you understand how the person or group might have been using the documents.

Identifying Primary Sources and Using the Archives

How to Find Archival Materials at the Reuther Library

Archival materials are unique documents. For this reason, they do not circulate and cannot be delivered to any other library through Interlibrary Loan. The Reuther Library welcomes researchers in our Reading Room, located on the 3rd floor of our building at 5401 Cass Ave. Please prepare for your visit by making a research appointment with our Reference Archivist, Kristen Chinery.

The easiest way to locate archival material is using Keep in mind that this tool will bring you results that may be a full archival collection or they may be a folder within a collection. While some collection contents can be accessed through this tool, most will still need to be viewed in person. Take note of the collection information and boxes you will need to see so that you can make arrangements with our archivists.

Some of our materials, like newspapers, image galleries, and blog posts we write to help you locate topics, are currently only available through our website.

  • Each collection at the Reuther has a finding aid that helps researchers navigate the collection.
  • The paragraphs at the top of the finding aid explain where the materials come from and place them in historical context.
  • The inventory explains the content of the boxes. In most cases, each folder of material is listed. If a folder is marked “Correspondence, 1968 April” a researcher will need to look in that folder to discover the subjects and authors of the letters inside.

Reading Room Hours

Monday-Friday:  9:30am-noon; 1-3:30pm
Saturday-Sunday: Closed
Appointments: Reference Archivist