Summer spotlight: ArchiveGrid

If your summer travels will take you places, perhaps include an archive in your visit! And if you do, definitely take a look at the extremely useful research tool, ArchiveGrid.

On the site’s homepage, there’s an easily navigable map letting you know which local archives are nearby; enter any US zip code and the map will update for that location. This is a fun feature; anywhere you go, there might be an unusual collection, or something of local interest. It’s also freely accessible, so feel free to share this resource with any intrepid researchers among your friends and relatives.

ArchiveGrid supports even the most extensive scholarship, by making it possible to search across multiple archives and collections at once. For example, if you were researching Eleanor Roosevelt, you might suspect that the papers and letters of this famous figure would be found in multiple locations. A basic internet search could offer a few leads on where to look – but you would still be left combing through the finding aids of the different collections, all varying in descriptive specificity, and leading to physical locations across the country.

This is where ArchiveGrid steps in: by functioning like a search engine for archival research, it helps you find what is out there (searchable by topic, name, keyword, location) and where to find it. If we search for “Eleanor Roosevelt,” a whopping 2,802 results appear – but we can then easily narrow them down, using different categories. “Summary View” offers a lot of information at a glance: which institutions hold the most items, where they are located (by city and state), and even related individuals. By clicking on the name of an institution, you can scroll through its other available collections, or search by topic; there is much potential here for discovering materials that have previously been tucked away.

ArchiveGrid functions by pulling information from WorldCat, and is composed of “over four million archival material descriptions.” The site was released in 2013, and is still in its beta stages; keep in mind as you search that not every institution is synched with ArchiveGrid. This is the case for at least a few of the more grassroots, volunteer-run organizations, such as the Sexual Minorities Archive in Holyoke, MA, and the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, NY.

For additional guidance on how to plan and develop your archival research, check out our Research Guide on the topic (including tips about using collections, as well as citation and copyright).

About the Author

Elvis Bakaitis is an Adjunct Reference Librarian at the Graduate Center Library.