Conducting Research in the Archives

The UW-Madison Archives serves a public institution and its holdings are open to all. The use of certain manuscripts and public records is restricted by statute and donors. For the protection of its collections, the Archives also reserves the right to restrict use of unprocessed records and fragile materials. Learn more by reading our Guidelines for Administering Restricted, Confidential, and Sensitive Records.

Materials held in the UW-Madison Archives do not circulate and may not be taken outside of the Archives. A representative sample of Archives holdings has been digitized and is available online through the UW Digital Collections. However, the majority of the collection materials are only available by visiting the Archives.

The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in the use of manuscripts and other material.

Most of the collection is cataloged in the Library Catalog, and a much smaller percentage in Archival Resources in Wisconsin: Descriptive Finding Aids.

Search the Library Catalog

Search the online catalog of the UW-Madison Libraries. The catalog contains entries for many archives and manuscript collections including photo, audio and oral history materials. The catalog also records basic information about our collections, such as the accession number and title of a collection, an abstract and subject headings.

Finding Aids and Indexes

Finding aids are descriptive inventories, indexes, or guides that we create to describe the archival records and manuscript collections. Finding aids provide information about records, the context of their creation, archival actions such as whether they are processing or in acquisition and a detailed contents list. UW Archives finding aids can be accessed through Archival Resources in Wisconsin: Descriptive Finding Aids.

Circulation Policy

Materials from the University Archives collection typically do not circulate, and they must be used in the Archives Reading Room. Some exceptions can be made to loan collections to other archival repositories and be made available through Interlibrary Loan. Please consult the Archives staff for additional information.

Archives and Special Collections Account

Visitors to the University Archives must register for an Archives and Special Collections Account. Anyone can register for a free account and this system will allow you to request non-circulating materials from the University Archives, Special Collections and the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives. Sign up for an Archives and Special Collections account to request materials via the library catalog, schedule a visit, order reproductions, track the status of your requests and access your research history.

Duplication Guidelines

The Archives Reading Room has various equipment that can be used for duplication purposes. In general, duplication is at no charge to the patron. Please consult our Duplication and Use Policy for additional information.

Instruction Tools

The Archives staff provides classroom instruction sessions upon request from faculty and instructors at UW-Madison. Additionally, we provide educational trainings and workshops covering a number of topics including (but not limited to): collection development resources, oral history best practices, records management, using primary sources and conducing research using archival collections. We created two online modules to help you get started with understanding the UW Archives and the Oral History Program. Contact us if you have questions or would like additional information.

Introduction to UW Archives

Introduction to the Oral History Program