Skip to Main Content

Guide to Archival Research

A guide on conducting archival research. Includes instructions on finding archival material at the Dalhousie University Archives.

Access material in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room

Most of the University Archives' collections can only be accessed in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room on the 5th floor of the Killam Memorial Library.  Requests to access material typically require one or more reference codes (i.e., call number) that each consist of a collection ID, a box number, and a folder number

Once you have identified material you want to view, there are a few simple steps:

  1. Submit request
  2. Provide photo ID
  3. View the material
  4. Return material to the information desk

For assistance:

1. Submit request

Once you have identified the material you want to view, you can submit a retreival request to staff in the Archives. This can be done in a few ways:

  • Email your request to
  • Call the Reference Desk in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room at (902) 494-3615
  • Fill out a request slip at the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room

You will need to visit the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room to view the material regardless of how you submit your retrieval request.

Our request slips are used for archival materials and materials from the Special Collections Department.  The request slips have room for you to write some key information about your request:

  • Retrieval Code (this usually includes a collection identifier, box number, and folder number)
  • Author (this usually only applies to Special Collections materials)
  • Title
  • Archives or Special Collections (are you requesting archival material or a published book?)
  • Date
  • The time you are making the request (staff will fill out the time the materials are returned)
  • Your name and contact information

DUASC call slip

2. Provide Photo ID

After you submit your retrieval request, staff will retrieve the materials you requested and bring them to you. When you are viewing the material, you will be asked to leave your DalCard or other photo ID at the Reference Desk.

3. View the material

You are free to view the material anywhere in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room. You can request photocopies or digital copies of material. All copying is done by Archives staff in accordance with Canadian copyright legislation.

Archival material can be fragile. This guide contains guidelines on handling archival material. Staff may give you cradles to support fragile bindings or white gloves to handle photographs. 

Pens and highlighters are not allowed in the Reading Room. Bring pencils or your laptop to take notes.

4. Return the materials

When you're finished using the materials you requested, bring them back to the Reference Desk.  Archives and Special Collections staff will return your DalCard or Photo ID and return the materials back in the archives for safe storage. 

If you are planning on coming back to use the materials, notify the staff.  We can give you the carbon copy of your request form so you have the retrieval information handy. We can also temporarily store the materials for you so they will be readily available for your next visit.