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HIUS 162/262: The American West: Locating & Using Manuscripts and Archives

Tools for finding Special Collections materials at UCSD

Mandeville Special Collections website. Find descriptions of the collections, rules for using the collections, links to digitized content and more.When starting out, it's good to get an idea of what Special Collections is all about.
Don't forget to search Roger, the online catalog!!

All Special Collections' books, manuscripts, newspapers, maps, photographs, etc. etc. including all of our manusSpecial Collections.

When you find materials of interest, bring the call number, author and title information to Special Collections on the main floor of the Geisel Library. You will work with the materials in our reading room.

Finding Aids for Manuscripts & UC San Diego Archives:

Browse through the finding aids alphabetically, by general topic area, or your search the full text of the finding aids for a particular correspondent or event.

Using MSCL Collections

Requesting Materials:
  • Jot down the Call number from the Roger Record or the top of the Finding Aid.
  • We pull up to six items at a time, so make a note of which MSS boxes or other materials you want to start with. 
Leave plenty of time
  • Researching in Manuscript and Archive collections is a time intensive processes and often involves some level of trial and error, but the rewards of uncovering original documents or letters related to your topic of study are well worth the time! 
Reading Room Rules and Handling Tips
  • Bring an ID! The first time you use the collections you will need to register.
  • You can bring a laptop into the reading room, but the no other personal belongings.
  • Read over the following Rules for Readers so you know what to expect.


Locating Manuscripts and Archives Beyond UCSD

We Can Help

We Can Help! Special Collections staff are available during our open hours to help you navigate these collections, so feel free to come in for assistance! We're open Monday - Friday 9-5. We also open until 7pm on Wednesdays while classes are in session.

Subject Guide

Heather Smedberg's picture
Heather Smedberg
Special Collections & Archives

Geisel Library Building

More on Finding Aids

What is a Finding Aid and how do I use one?

 Manuscript collections contain a wealth of original primary source materials, stored in file folders within archival quality boxes. It is impractical for you to physically sift through every box to determine what each collection contains - some collections have hundreds of boxes!  

A Finding Aid serves as an index or inventory of a manuscript/archival collection:

A finding aid will typically:

  • Provide an overview of the collection
  • Describe the arrangement of the materials into different "series" of like materials (e.g., Correpsondence, Writings, Photographs, Journals, etc.)
  • List each folder title within each box of the collection.

Try this example:

Examine the Herman Baca Papers finding aid as and example.

  • Notice the arrangement of the finding aid.
  • Scroll through the Abstract, Biography, and Scope and Content sections.
  • Take a look at the Container List: notice some folder titles are detailed, while other folder titles are more general.