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Archival Research


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Welcome to the Archival research guide. This guide will:

  • showcase key Australian archives,
  • help you develop basic archival research skills, and
  • provide you with a basic overview of copyright issues to consider when using archives.

Archives around the world

Archives can be found all around the world.  Explore this interactive map to see how you can find research and information from all around the world using archives.

Why are archives important?

Archives are not just places where documents or records are stored, they are witnesses to our history and places which tell stories.

In them we find evidence, explanation and justification not just for our past actions but for current and future decisions.They are unique and irreplaceable. Archives provide us with:

  • education and research opportunities,
  • entertainment and leisure,
  • protection of our human rights, and
  • understanding of who we are.

Archives reflect our attitudes at the time and must be viewed in the context of who created them and why. It is critical that care is taken to properly identify and provide access to archives so their roles can be fully realised to the benefit of our society (Adapted from the International Council of Archives 2016).

Watch this short video to learn more:

 Video length: 1 min. 37 sec

  • Archives are a collection of historical records relating to either place, organisation, group of people or event.
  • Archives also refer to the place where these records are kept.
  • They can contain realia, physical objects or artifacts, along with historical documents.

What do you find in them?

Archives are made up of primary sources of information, including:

Brochures Letters Photographs
Certificates Maps Realia (clothing, toys etc)
Diaries Meeting Minutes Reports
Film Newspapers & Magazines Sound Recordings

Items in archives are not necessarily 'old' but are unlikely to be used regularly. Ultimately, archives can have material that is in print, analog or digital form.

Watch the short video below to learn more about primary sources:

Where do they come from?

Archives can come from a range of sources, including:

  • charities
  • communities
  • corporations
  • courts and judicial bodies
  • governments
  • individuals
  • libraries
  • military organisations
  • museums
  • not for profit organisations
  • religious organisations
  • schools
  • theatres, film makers and performing groups
  • trade unions
  • universities
  • voluntary organisations