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Module 2: How to Find Primary Sources in the UIUC Archives

Doing research in the Archives, Step 1:
Think about who might have created relevant records

In archives, records are kept with other similar records that were created by the same person or organizational unit.

So when looking for information in the archives of an institution (like the University of Illinois), it helps to start by thinking about what kinds of individuals or organizations would have been involved in the events or conditions you’re researching. Then look for any records these people or groups might have generated during the time period in question that would relate to these events. When you find a source that seems relevant, examine it carefully. It will probably lead you to other sources.

For example

Our interest was piqued by the picture on the right, published in the Illio in 1969, showing students engaged in a protest against racism. Unfortunately, this particular volume of the Illio did not place captions near most of its photographs, so it offered little explanation as to what provoked the protest. However, by closely examining other records, we were able to figure out that this protest was part of the fall-out from the bungled initiation of the Project 500 program, the University of Illinois' pioneering effort to expand educational opportunities to underserved populations.

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photo of white students with signs reading Boycott Classes: Fight Racism

In order to learn more about the events depicted in this photograph, we examined the rest of this issue of the Illio, as well as the records of other campus groups and units from this time period that either recorded or were directly involved in anti-racism activity on campus: The publications of the Black Student Association, the Daily Illini, Board of Trustees reports, and the records of programs relating to educational opportunities administered through the offices of Student Affairs and Admissions and Records. One source led us to the next.

Illio, Volume 76 (1969), p. 26. Used with permission.

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