Cameras in the Archives

Image: antique miniature camera in a pocketwatch

Victorian Spy Camera Watch, by Brett Jordan. Source: Flickr.

Archival material cannot typically be checked out or interlibrary loaned, and usually not photocopied or scanned (except by a staff member, and for a fee). However, many archival institutions will allow you to take photos of pages.

Tips for using a camera in the archives

Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections

Housed on the lowest level of Kroch Library, the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections is open for research Monday-Friday, 10:30am-4:30pm, and on some Saturday afternoons. Please consult their web site for specific hours. This is Cornell's largest collection of archival and rare book materials. While books are listed in the library catalog, archival collections are described at the collection (rather than at the item) level, and many have further details on collection contents and arrangement listed on finding guides. Notable collections are described in Collections Highlights.

Researchers must register to use the Rare collections. To register: Fill out this online form, then bring a photo ID to the RMC Reference Desk when you come in to do your research.

Step One: Use the catalog to find top-level records for archival materials

screen shot of sample catalog record for manuscript collection with link to online record

Step Two: Get more detail if the collection has a finding aid

screen shot of finding aid for sample manuscript collection with link to actual finding aid online

Step Three: Request materials

Once you've identified the manuscript materials you need, place a request from the CATALOG record using the box and/or folder information from the FINDING AID.

Identify the materials you want to see in the finding guide:

Screen shot of archival box location information as listed in the finding guide

Go back to the catalog record and request the box and/or folder using the request button:

Step Four: Examine materials in the Rare Reading Room!

During the pandemic, you will need to make an appointment to use the RMC reading room. During other times, you can simply proceed to the reading room on level 2B Kroch Library. Allow at least 2 days so that your materials can be retrieved, and follow the registration guidelines. The first time you visit, you will need to register as a reader, but afterward, you will be in the system, so all you'll need is an ID. RMC staff will check you in and ask you which of the materials you've requested through the system you want to examine, then they'll show you to the rare books and manuscripts reading room, where you will examine your materials after they have been retrieved from the vault. If you have questions before you visit RMC, you can always contact the RMC staff.