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Women's History Research in Archives : Introduction

This guide provides an introduction to researching in archives as well as resources and strategies for researching women's history in archives.

Table of Contents

Libraries vs. Archives

  • What’s the Difference?
  • Libraries vs. Archives (comparative chart)

Find an Archive

  • UW-Madison Area Archives
  • Find an Archive Near You
  • Find a Women’s Archive Near You
  • Find an Archive by Content
  • Find the Papers of an Individual or Organization

Women’s Archives

  • Help These Lists Grow
  • Women’s Archives in the United States
  • International Women’s Archives
  • Professional Women’s Archives
  • Women of Color Archives
  • Lesbian Archives
  • Jewish Women’s Archives
  • Christian Women’s Archives

Visiting an Archive

  • Preliminary Research
  • Contact the Archive
  • What to Expect on a Visit

Researching in Archives

  • Archival Organization
  • Archival Catalogs
  • Using “Finding Aids”
  • Tutorials and Manuals

Women’s History Research

  • Subject Terms
  • Guides to Archival Collections
  • Searching Archival Catalogs
  • Think Like an Archivist

Primary Sources

  • Published Archival Materials
  • Exhibits and Items Online
  • More on Primary Sources


Beginning to do archival research can be confusing and intimidating. 

Archives use different organizational systems than libraries and have more restrictive access systems than libraries.  Understanding the differences between libraries and archives, however, can help you get the most out of archival research. 

This guide seeks to promote women's history related archival research by providing resources for finding archives and relevant archival collections, explaining archival organization and gathering together relevant links and references.

Ways to Use This Guide

You can use this guide in a number of ways depending on the scope of your research project: 

Quick and Dirty:

Follow links and use search tips to find digitized archival materials available online or reproductions of archival materials in a library near you.  See the Primary Sources tab.


Find an archive near you and use tips to find women's and gender history related materials in their collections.


Find the papers of a particular person, organization or institution OR find an archive devoted to your research topic.  Get tips and explanations that will help you get the most out of your research time when you visit.


Read the whole guide and combine numerous strategies as appropriate to different aspects of your research project.

Photo Archive

Photo by Pete Ashton

Gender and Women's Studies Librarian

Karla Strand
University of Wisconsin System
430 Memorial Library
728 State Street
Madison, WI 53706
Website / Blog Page

Guide Creator

Virginia Corvid, a library and archival studies graduate student, created this guide as part of a practicum at the Women's Studies Librarian's Office.  Virginia would like to thank the Women's Studies Librarian, Phyllis Holman Weisbard, for all of her assistance and advice on this project. For updates to this guide, email the current Gender & Women's Studies Librarian, Karla Strand.

Creative Commons License
Creative Commons

Piano Roll Boxes

Photo by Power House Museum