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Citing archival sources: Home

This libguide will help you cite archival sources you use in your research

How to Cite Archival Collections

Archival collections are not cataloged like other library items. Proper citations help readers find the materials you used in your research. When citing archival materials in your research, there are certain pieces of information that should be included regardless of your citation style. These are:

  • Item
  • Folder
  • Box 
  • Collection title and collection number
  • Repository information

Terms and Definitions

Item - A thing that can be distinguished from a group and that is complete in itself. An item may consist of several pieces but is treated as a whole. For example, a letter may have several physically discrete pages but is treated as an item because of its content. Items are generally considered to be the smallest archival unit. 

File - A group of documents related by use or topic, typically housed in a folder. 

Series - A group of similar records that are arranged according to a filing system and that are related as the result of being created, received, or used in the same activity; a file group; a record series. - 2. Bibliography · A group of items, each with its own title, also bearing a collective title for the group as a whole.

Box - A container made from materials appropriate for the long-term storage of archival materials.

Collection -  A group of materials with some unifying characteristic. - 2. Materials assembled by a person, organization, or repository from a variety of sources

Repository - any type of organization that holds documents, including business, institutional, and government archives, manuscript collections, libraries, museums, and historical societies, and in any form, including manuscripts, photographs, moving image and sound materials, and their electronic equivalents.

All definitions taken from the Society of American Archivists Glossary. 

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Katherine Crowe
Subjects: Archival Resources

Example Citations

The following item is a commecment program published by the university. It is housed in U138 University of Denver Commencement Records 1881-2017 collection. The program can be found in Box 1 Folder 6. Below are samples of how to cite this item. 

Commencement 1912


Commencement Program 6th June, 1912, Box 1, Folder 6, U138 University of Denver Commencement Records 1881-2017, University of Denver Special Collection and Archives, University of Denver Libraries.


Commencement Program 6th June, 1912University of Denver Commencement Records 1881-2017, Special Collections and Archives, University of Denver Libraries, U138, box 1, folder 6.


Commencement Program 6th June, 1912. (1912). [Commencement Program]. U138 University of Denver Commencement Records 1881-2017, University of Denver Special Collections and Archives (Box 1, Folder 6), University of Denver Libraries, Denver, CO.