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Find Archival Collections and Primary Sources

Guide to conducting research using primary sources.

Archives collect original unpublished, historical and contemporary material. Primary sources include manuscripts, diaries, letters, rare books, historical photographs, first-hand accounts or documentary sources on a subject, person, event or issue. While archives specialize in primary source material, all of the libraries on the UC Berkeley campus contain primary source material as well. Please be sure to consult library reference staff if you need additional assistance to locate primary resources in your area of research.

Online archives and databases

Online Archive of California
Archival Collections and Primary Source Databases (Electronic Resource Finder)
California Digital Library's Web Archiving Service

Archives on the UC Berkeley campus

Asian American Studies Collection
The Asian American Studies Collection of the Ethnic Studies Library contains the largest Chinese American archival collection in the world. The Chinese American Archives contain manuscripts, diaries, correspondence, newsletters and other primary source materials, including the largest collection of biographies on prominent people in different fields and on active community members. To find the entire list of archival collections on OskiCat, search the Call Number AAS ARC. The following electronic finding aids are available via the Online Archive of California:
Chung (Margaret) Papers
East West Research Files
Wey (Nancy) Papers
Lai (Him Mark) Papers

The Bancroft Library
The Bancroft Library is the primary special collections library at the University of California, Berkeley and is one of the largest and most heavily used libraries of manuscripts, rare books, and unique materials in the United States. Manuscript & archival finding aids are available via the Online Archive of California.

Chicano Studies Collection
The Chicano Studies Collection of the Ethnic Studies Library contains primary sources that include but are not limited to pamphlets, microfilm, audiotapes, videotapes, records, documents, reports, student papers, dissertations, manuscripts, serials, posters, and art slides. The collection is accessible via OskiCat and the Chicano Database (UCB access only).

C.V. Starr East Asian Library
The C.V. Starr East Asian Library at Berkeley contains one of the most comprehensive collections of materials in East Asian Languages in the United States. The collection includes Japanese woodblock-printed maps, Japanese manuscripts, Chinese rubbings, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean woodblock printing, Buddhist scriptures, and medieval manuscripts.

Environmental Design Archives
The Environmental Design Archives holds nearly 100 collections documenting the built and landscaped environment. These records span a century, 1890-1990, and contain primary source materials such as correspondence, reports, specifications, drawings, photographs, and artifacts. Finding aids for the collections may be found via the Online Archive of California.

Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library
The collection contains some 180,000 volumes of books and printed music, 50,000 sound and video recordings, and 30,000 microforms in addition to extensive special holdings of manuscripts, rare materials, and archives. A select bibliography of the library's collections and special holdings, as well as Music archive finding aids are available.

Native American Studies Collection
The Native American Studies Collection of the Ethnic Studies Library contains archival collections that include personal papers and correspondence, tribal materials, art, and audio-visual materials, and personal library and/or archival collections.

Pacific Film Archive
The PFA collections include books, periodicals, posters, stills, audiotapes, screenplays, international film festival programs.

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology
The collections of the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology are vast and diverse. The total number of objects in the collection is estimated at 3.8 million, the largest of which are the California collections.

Robbins Collection at Boalt Hall (Law Library)
The collection promotes historical and comparative research and study in the fields of civil law and religious law, including the various Christian traditions as well as Jewish and Islamic law. Books, manuscripts, incunables, microfilms and periodicals are acquired on a continuous and systematic basis.

South Asia and Southeast Asia Collections
The Library has many specialized collections relating to South and Southeast Asia, from early Thai Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts, to political ephemera from California's South Asian community. Materials include personal papers and manuscripts, photographs, posters, periodicals and audio materials. For a detailed listing, see South Asia special collections and Southeast Asia special collections.

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