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Archives and Special Collections: A Guide: FAQ/Tips


What are Archives and how is that different from Special Collections?


Archives are records, in any format, that document the history of Phillips Academy. Examples include: the records of Headmaster Cecil Bancroft, the Academy Photography collection, and the Dean of Students office records. Special Collections are rare books, manuscripts and other primary source materials that support research and scholarship; they may have no direct relationship to the history of Phillips Academy. Examples include: the 1661 Eliot Bible, Bromfield School collection, Mark Twain's draft manuscript of A Tramp Abroad, extensive Virgil collection, and the Phillips Family papers. The Archives & Special Collections Department is responsible for collecting, preserving and making available these unique, rare and historically valuable materials for research and educational purposes.



What is a finding aid (or guide)?


A finding aid is a guide to a specific collection of materials. It describes the different parts of the collection and their relationships to one another and provides a detailed list of the collection’s contents, usually in the form of a folder list. The finding aid enables you to see exactly what items we have and to request them by box number and folder title when you make an appointment. At present, we have only descriptions of records of the Head of School office (1878-1972), and we are working on creating additional and more substantial finding aids for other collections.




Do I need an appointment to use the Archives?


Unless you are just stopping by with a call number in your hand, we strongly encourage you to contact us before coming in to do research. This way we can identify what you need and have it ready for you when you arrive. It also gives us a chance to think about your question and possibly identify other less obvious sources of information. You can email us at: The department is open Monday through Friday 8am to 4pm.




If I think you have a certain collection, or materials on a particular person or event, how do I find out for sure?


Feel free to contact us by email to find out if we have useful materials you may not have considered or even materials for which we have yet to create online finding aids. Or, if you prefer, you may also contact the department to see if we are available to chat with you.




Can I make copies and what do you charge?


We make digital copies of fragile materials for you. If your request is small, chances are we’ll be able to photocopy the materials for you right away. Larger requests may take several days to complete. For items determined by the archivist to not be fragile, you may use the book scanner to make copies yourself then email them to yourself or save them to a jump drive.  We will also make high-resolution scans of photographs for you. Please bring a jump drive for us to give your digital files. All reproductions are for educational or personal use only, and you must agree to comply with copyright law. Personal cameras and scanners may be brought in with permission.



What are those strict rules I have heard about?


We have requirements here that are different from those in the regular library in order to protect our unique, sometimes irreplaceable, items. No food or drinks are allowed in the department. Pencils or laptop computers are to be used for all note taking—no pens. Cameras and scanners are allowed with permission. All materials must remain in the reading room. We will let you know if particular materials need special handling, but if you notice that an item is fragile please be extra careful. Though it may not be readily apparent, all materials are maintained in a particular order and should be kept that way; folders within boxes and items within folders must not be shuffled.