In this context, appraisal refers to the decisions that archivists and librarians make about which parts of a collection have research value and which do not. We try to document these decisions so that researchers understand how collections came to us, what may have been removed, and how we made the determinations that we did.
We cannot answer questions about the monetary value of our (or others’) collections. If you are looking for this kind of help, a web search will return lists of professional appraisers.
The search results on our site will often take you very close to what you were looking for. If this is all the information you need, you can request the item and have it brought to you in our reading room.
But sometimes researchers want to get a broader understanding of what this material is and where it came from. Luckily, there’s usually plenty more information about the rest of the materials in the collection, where they came from, what they’re about, and who collected them.
The “Collection History” tab near the left of the finding aid will tell you about what happened to this material before it came to us, and how archivists intervened in the preparation of these records for research use.
Archivists also write short essays providing a sense of the history of the materials and a general sense of what a researcher will find within. You can find that information on the “Description” tab on the left.
For a quick view of how the materials in the collection are arranged, click on the “Contents” tab. This will often give a short explanation of how and why materials were arranged this way, and will also show an abstraction of the collection’s contents.
In a small-but-growing number of cases, this material may already be scanned and available online. Feel free to peruse these files online or download them to use at your convenience.
Otherwise, you will need to visit us in person to see these materials. Simply click the request box, give us some information about your visit, and hit submit, and the materials will be available for you when you arrive. To learn more about visiting us, please feel free to click the “Repositories” button near the top of the page.
Please note that in some cases, materials are stored off-site. We require 48–72 hours notice before your visit to ensure that they will be waiting for you when you arrive.
Finally, some of our materials may not yet be open for research use (there will be a note on the finding aid to tell you this). However, please feel free to be in touch — we may be able to help you find alternate materials that address your research needs, and we are always happy to explain access restrictions.