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October is American Archives Month

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What is an archives?

October has been deemed “American Archives Month.” So what, you may ask, is an “archives”? The word archives can be used to describe a collection of historic materials, or the place where the materials are preserved and available to researchers. Archives generally include materials that are not published, such as letters, reports, memos, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other primary sources.  These sources contain firsthand data or evidence of people, events, and places.

Where do you find archives?

Many organizations such as churches, schools, hospitals, historical societies, governments, and businesses have their own archives that maintain historic documents related to their organization. Universities and research libraries often have archives that also include the personal or family papers of well-known literary authors, scientists, politicians, and other notable individuals, as well as the records of historic organizations.

How can I use an archives?

Archives are often used by students and researchers who are writing books, papers, or articles about various topics. Some archives are not open to the public, but many, including Pepperdine’s, are open to anyone.

The Society of American Archivists suggests other potential uses for archival materials: “For example, Native Americans may use archival records to establish legal claims to land and privileges guaranteed by federal and state governments; medical researchers utilize records to study patterns of diseases; authors use archives to acquire a feel for the people and times about which they are writing; historians and genealogists rely on archival sources to analyze past events to reconstruct family histories; and businesses use the records to improve their public relations and to promote new products” (http://www2.archivists.org/profession).

What are Pepperdine’s archives?

At Pepperdine, the archives are a part of the Special Collections and University Archives. The University Archives is the largest archival collection at Pepperdine. This collection includes papers of past university presidents, minutes of decision-making bodies on campus, historic photographs and videos, historic editions of the Graphic and the yearbooks, and other materials that document the history of Pepperdine. For the month of October, a few of these materials are in display in the Payson Library Lobby.

Pepperdine’s archival collections also include the archives of the Malibu Water Company, the Malibu Dam, and the Malibu Stage Company. We have a large collection of Los Angeles Tourism Ephemera, which includes brochures and news clippings related to early museums and art galleries in the LA area. A collection of the papers of former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn is a great resource for LA history.

Find out more about using Pepperdine’s archives here: http://library.pepperdine.edu/special-collections/using/.

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