How Archives Work

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Episode 4: How Archives Work

Episode Summary

Historians research history in archives.

Headshot of Peter Drummey

But how do you gain access to one? And how do you use an archive once you find that it likely contains the information you seek?

In this third episode of our “Doing History: How Historians Work” series, we investigate how archives work with Peter Drummey, an archivist and the Stephen T. Riley Librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

What You’ll Discover

  • The founding of the Massachusetts Historical Society
  • The collections and archival focus of the MHS
  • The purpose of archives
  • How archives differ from libraries
  • The work archivists perform
  • How archivists’ arrangement and description of archival materials affects researchers’ use collections
  • How the MHS collects manuscripts, rare books, and printed materials for its collections
  • How the collection practices of the Massachusetts Historical Society has evolved over 225 years
  • Late-18th and early-19th-century ideas about document preservation
  • The digital collections and resources of the Massachusetts Historical Society
  • How the present influences the objectivity of archives and archive collecting
  • The Papers and “Midnight Ride” of Paul Revere
  • How archivists ensure historical materials will be around for researchers to use for years to come
  • How the Massachusetts Historical Society came to possess one of the largest collections of papers by Thomas Jefferson
  • Details about Thomas Jefferson, his home, and slaves
  • How archivists catalog and arrange large manuscript collections
  • Tips for researching in archives like the Massachusetts Historical Society

Links to People, Places, and Publications

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Episode 4