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 materials

Image: screenshot of Cornell Library catalog record for Quechua catechism

This is a bound manuscript. Click the request button and follow the steps to initiate your request for a specific time at least 24 hours in advance. You will still have to register on site to use the collections and have it paged from the vault. Lots more detailed information about that here.

This catechism was translated in a 1999 facsimile edition on the shelf in Olin Library.

Images are available online here

Step One, pt. 2: Use the catalog to find top-level records for archival materials

Image: screenshot of Cornell Library catalog record for an archival collection

This is the top-level catalog record for the William Mangin papers. Since it is a large collection, it also has a finding guide, which you'll need to consult to know which box of manuscript materials to request.

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

Image: screenshot of Cornell Library finding guide for archival collection

The finding guide is like a detailed table of contents. It gives you an idea of what is in each box so that you'll know whether or not you'll need to request it and have it paged to examine in the rare reading room.

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:

Image: screenshot of Cornell Library finding guide

Finally, 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!

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.