The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 24, June 17, 2007, Article 8


Dick Johnson writes: "This October there will be a nationwide
celebration of American archives. Here in Connecticut the State
Archivist, Walter Woodward, is asking all organizations that have
archive files to send him a summary so he can post on his blogsite  State Archivist Mark Jones is asking these
organizations to contact him at to coordinate
these activities. Perhaps your state has similar plans.

"There is a wealth of numismatic material buried in archives around
America. It remains for numismatists with a curiosity, honesty (and
a lot of time!) to ferret out this information. Archivists want to
assist you but will not do the work for you. You must physically
visit the archives, museum, library, historical society or whatever
and be prepared to dig for yourself.

"I have learned a lot of tips in my years of document digging.
Perhaps it would be useful to list my Top Ten Tips with the hope
this will inspire fellow numismatists to research some topic of
great interest to them (and with the hope of article or book

(1) Do your homework ahead of time. Learn as much as possible about
the subject you will research. Review this shortly before your visit
so this information is fresh in your mind. This will save you time
so you won't have to search your notes instead of their documents
on site.

(2) Prepare a list of people, events and dates and keep this handy.
If any records are digital, prepare a list of all possible keywords.

(3) Plan ahead. Contact the archivist by letter, phone or email. Be
brief and specific in your request. In a follow-up letter list your
credentials -- they have every right to check you out. Give dates
you plan to visit (but don't be dissatisfied if you are not
accommodated right away -- it took me 18 months to get into the
Tiffany & Co archives).

(4) Often the material you want to see is stored offsite, or may
require some time to bring to the work area. Work with the archivist
to ask for only the amount of material that can be easily examined
in one day. Don't request so much material that you won't have time
to examine it all.

(5)  Ask for a 'finding aid.'  Most archives have these. Some are
even on the internet so you have access to these in advance. For
some (like for the National Archives), this is a bound book.

(6)  Bring a photo ID.  Most archives require these and will
photocopy it.

(7)  Team up with a fellow numismatist. Most archives will allow
two people to work together. Two heads are better than one and often
provide insight to a research problem at the time it comes up.  (I
teamed up with minting expert Craig Sholley to visit the Pennsylvania
state archives and author Katie Jaeger to visit Tiffany & Co

(8)  Abide by the archive's rules. Expect these. Most will require
you to wear those darn white gloves as you handle anything. (I have
one idiosyncrasy -- I wear a white condom glove on my left hand and
handle everything one-handed while I write notes with my right hand.
If I need both hands I have to turn on the tape recorder.)

(9)  Leave your pens at home. No ink pens or ballpoint pens allowed,
or anything else that might damage a piece of paper.

(10)  Don't wait to the last half hour before closing time to order
your photocopies if the staff does these. Expect some archives to do
these after you leave and will mail these to you, or pick up at your
next visit.

"Please, some of you other researchers -- like Roger Burdette --
what archive tips have you?"

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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