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 or donors. For the protection of its collections, the Archives also reserves the right to restrict use of unprocessed records and fragile materials.

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 Center UW-Madison Collection but 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 records provides 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 repositories create to describe and provide access to the contents of archival records and manuscript collections. Finding aids provide information about records, the context of their creation, archival actions such as acquisition and processing, and often a detailed contents list.

Most of our detailed finding aids are not available online but accessible in the University Archives or by email upon patron request.

Circulation Policy

Materials from the University Archives collection do not circulate; they must be used in the Archives Reading Room. Materials may not be removed from the University Archives for copying.

The University Archives is a member of the Wisconsin Historical Society Area Research Center Network and some items from our collection may circulate to these repositories.

If there are duplicates of publications, they may be available for Interlibrary Loan. Contact your local library for information on Interlibrary Loan.

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 new system will allow you to request non-circulating materials from the University Archives, Special CollectionsMills Music Library, 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.

Photocopying and Scanning Policies

The Archives maintains two photocopiers for patron use. The machines are self service and provide “scan-to-pdf” option for those who wish to email copies. Tightly bound volumes, over-sized sheets or  fragile items may NOT be photocopied. Digital cameras are permitted. If you would like to use a personal scanner, please check with the University Archives staff prior to your visit.

The University Archives also has a microfilm/microfiche reader available to patrons. The reader also has an “scan-to-pdf” option.

Patrons should consider bringing a thumb drive or other external file-saving device, to collect and organize digital documents acquired at the Archives.

Reference Collection

The Archives maintains a small, non-circulating reference collection of publications related to UW history. These materials may be used within the Archives reading room or photocopied for research purposes. Titles includes publications researched using the Archives collections.