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Archives 101: Where to Search

Basic information and tips on how to search for and access archives.

Selecting an Archives for your Research

Regional map of BCAn individual publication such as a book will likely be available in multiple libraries. If you walk into any public library in the country, you can be pretty confident that you will find copies of the Harry Potter series. Unlike libraries, archives keep unpublished and unique materials. No archives will have the the same original records as another. The records individual archives collect is directly based on their mandate and the majority of archival mandates are tied to their geographic region. As the Northern BC Archives (NBCA) is based at the University of Northern BC our mandate is to acquire, preserve, and provide access to materials of permanent value that relate to:

  • The institutional history of UNBC and its institutes
  • The culture and history of Northern British Columbia

Other archives will have mandates that overlap or include the geographic region of the NBCA such as any museum or other institution that has their own archives within Northern BC but also larger archives like BC Archives and Library and Archives Canada.

Locating Archival Material

When looking for the records of a person, family, or organization, know basic biographical or administrative facts to inform your search:

  • Where the person lived, worked, attended university, or died
  • Where the family lived or the heir or last living family member lived and died
  • Where the headquarters of the organization was based
Google Search

Search the name of the person, family, or institution followed by the word "fonds" in Google and the search results should consist of relevant archival finding aids where the repository or archives will be listed if the fonds exists and has been described online.

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Searching Archives by Source

Archives are organized by the person or organization who created the records and, where possible, in the order in which they created and kept them. This is to preserve the context and evidential value of the records. This organizational system makes it difficult to search archives by subject or topic as one would search a library. Therefore, when looking for primary sources on a topic, make note of key figures in secondary sources then search for the archives of those figures.