Guide to Citing Research Material from the Archives
Most citation style guides will tell you that there's no one standard way to cite archival materials, because archives contain so many different types of items. It's best to pick one format and apply it consistently across your paper.
What format you use depends on what style your professor prefers – MLA, APA, Chicago, or another style. The examples here are meant only as general guidelines. If you have specific questions, ask your professor or contact us at email@example.com.
In order to properly cite archival materials, you should take notes while you read and record at least the following things about each archival item you use. The goal is to enable someone following your research to be able to quickly locate the same item.
- Name of creator/publisher, whether a person or an organization
- Title of item; if there is no title, substitute a brief description in your own words.
- Date item was created. If the date is not exact, use “ca.” (for “circa,” meaning “around”). If no date is given, write “undated” or “n.d.”
- Name of the collection the item is from
- Title of the file or envelope the item is from (look at the identifying tab on the file), or box and folder number if given
- Archives name: Gallaudet University Archives, Washington D.C.
- For digital media, also include the URL of the item and the date you viewed it.
This includes the Gallaudetiana Collection, the Deaf Biographical Collection, the Deaf African-American Collection, and other collections of clippings and other items. You should create one specific citation for each item you use, not just one citation for an entire folder. Listings should include the collection and folder name if possible.
Valli, Clayton. (1998, August 22). A “Patronizing Attitude” Toward the Deaf. Deaf Biographical Collection: Valli, Clayton. Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.
Stafford, Henry L. March 26, 1923. Letter to Percival Hall. Deaf Biographical Collection: Stafford, Henry Lathrop. Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.
Waring, Elliot S. Obituary for James Gilbert. November 1903. Deaf African-Americans Collection: Gilbert, Jr., James. Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.
Many photographs in the Archives do not include titles or photographers. If there is no photographer listed, omit that from your citation. If the photo has a formal title, list it in italics; if there is no title, include a short description of the photo instead. Be sure to check the back of the photo, which may have the photographer's name and/or a title that you can use.
APA style (photographer listed, but no title):
Rice Photography Studio (1884). Class portrait of George Veditz [photograph]. Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.
Chicago style (no photographer or title):
Photograph of counters in the Abbey. Ca. 1989-1990. Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.
MLA style (title, but no photographer given):
Gallaudet College Base Ball Team. 1900. Photograph. Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.
Papers and Manuscripts
For these items, be sure to note the collection title and box and folder number.
Weld, Lewis. (1847, May 18.) Letter to Edward Fitzpatrick. American School for the Deaf and Lewis Weld Papers, MSS 86, box 1, folder 5. Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.
Detmold, George. March 1, 1961. Memorandum on placement of new students. Leonard M. Elstad Presidential Papers, box 88, folder 14. Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.
Minutes of Gallaudet College Athletic Council. November 29, 1973. Gallaudet Student Sports Records, box 10, folder 1973-1975. Gallaudet University Archives, Washington, D.C.