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Tips for Finding Manuscript Resources

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View an online tutorial about locating manuscript resources.

Archival record box holding manuscript materials

The Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections (LLMVC) is comprehensive research collection comprised of materials in all formats dedicated to recording the history and culture of the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley. Formats include books, serials and journals, photographs, state documents, microfilm of existing files of most LA newspapers, audio and visual materials, pamphlets and maps. In addition to these published works, the collections include unpublished sources in the form of archive and manuscript collections totaling more than 5000 discrete collections and including over 10 million items.


Manuscript Subject Guides

These searchable guides have been prepared by staff to identify some of the topical concentrations of the collection as well as individual collections that relate to those topics.

Online Catalog

Manuscript collections are cataloged in the online catalog, along with books, serials, audio visual materials, and the other holdings of the LSU Libraries. To retrieve records for manuscript collections most effectively, choose to do an Advanced Search, which gives you the option to search by author, title, subject, and keyword. These can be combined for an even narrower search by using AND, OR, NOT, which is called Boolean searching. Keyword searches are very helpful for conducting a broad search to locate manuscript items by topic.

To make any search retrieve only records for manuscript collections, choose the following options on the Advanced Search form: “Special Collections” as the library, “Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections” as the location, and “archives and manuscripts” as the catalog format.

Sample catalog Searches


Title: Joseph D. Shields papers
Author: Chol Emmanuel
(name in reverse order; no comma needed)
Subject: Plantations Louisiana
(must be a Library of Congress subject heading)
Keyword: reconstruction and Louisiana
(finds all records in which “reconstruction” and “Louisiana” both appear) The same results can be had by filling in one box with “reconstruction” and setting the search to keyword and filling in a 2nd box with “Louisiana,” also set to do a keyword search. The operator in the box on the right should be “AND.”

✔ Though all processed manuscript collections have been cataloged in the Libraries’ online catalog, it is still useful to check the MANUSCRIPT CARD CATALOG, which is only available in the reading room of Hill Memorial Library.


Finding Aids And Inventories

Finding aids (also called inventories) are detailed descriptions of a collection’s contents. They assist researchers in identifying and navigating relevant collections. More than 700 are available and searchable online, but many still exist only in paper form and can be accessed in the reading room of Hill Memorial Library.


LOUISIANA DIGITAL LIBRARY

Selected items from our archival collections and in some cases entire collections have been digitized and are available in the Louisiana Digital Library (LDL), which also contains digitized content from libraries and museums across the state.


ADDITIONAL ONLINE ACCESS

Selected archival materials from the LLMVC have been digitized and published online through subscription databases. Access to these resources is limited to campus, faculty, staff, and students.

History Vault
Digital access to the microfilm series Records of Antebellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War.

Slavery, Abolition, and Social Justice, 1490-2007
This portal for slavery studies brings together documents and collections covering an extensive time period spanning six centuries, from libraries and archives across the Atlantic world.

Holdings at Other Repositories

Other repositories may have materials that complement what is available at LSU, or you may be interested in an area for which we have no resources. To locate these materials, databases that combine the records of many different libraries into one large database are available, allowing you to search the holdings of multiple institutions.

WorldCat

Allows you to search the records of any type of materials cataloged by libraries across the U.S. and some other countries. Records for manuscript and archival collections at LSU are also included in WorldCat.

WorldCat supports searching by the title, author, subject, keyword, as well as many other choices. Searches can be basic, advanced, or expert and can also include Boolean operators. Advanced and expert searches can also be limited by year of publication, document type (choose “mixed material” for manuscript collections), language, and library location.

ArchiveGrid

Searches WorldCat plus finding aids that repositories have mounted on their websites. Probably the most exhaustive resource available.

Archive Finder

Only available on campus or to those affiliated with LSU. A current directory of over 5,000 repositories and nearly 220,000 collections of primary source material across the United States. Using Archive Finder, researchers are able to read descriptions of a repository's holdings to determine whether a collection contains material useful to their work as well as to find the information they need to contact the repository directly. Supports Boolean searching. Choose “Collection Search” to begin.

Repositories of Primary Sources

Links to archival repositories, organized by country and state.