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Guide to Archival Research

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

Overview of archival digitization services

The University Archives offers archival digitization services to the Dalhousie community and the general public. 

How do I submit a request?

Search or browse the Archives Catalogue to find files and items of interest.

Submit your archival digitization request using the digitization request form.

When you submit an archival digitization request, Archives staff will work with you to:

  • Determine if the request can be fulfilled
  • Provide fee estimates if applicable
  • Discuss alternatives if the request is unfeasible

If the digitization request proceeds, Archives staff will:

  • Prepare the file(s) for digitization
  • Digitize the file according to the University Archives digitization standards
  • Create a high-quality, fully-searchable (with some exceptions for illegible and/or handwritten text) PDF or high-resolution JPEG image
  • Send you a link to download the file(s)

Archival digitization services are very similar to the services provided by the Libraries' Document Delivery Service.  But it is limited to archival material held by the Dalhousie Libraries. Please note that physical archival materials do not circulate.

How do I find help?

This research guide provides detailed instructions on searching and browsing the Archives Catalogue.

Staff in the University Archives can provide assistance searching the Archives Catalogue and completing the digitization request form.

You can visit the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room on the 5th Floor of the Killam Memorial Library. 

You can also call the Reading Room at 902-494-3615 or email us at

What kind of archival material can I request?

Eligible Materials

  • All private manuscript collections
  • University records that are not restricted
  • Certain university records may be made available to administrative staff

Ineligible Materials

  • Materials that exceed the definition of "short excerpt" in the Dalhousie Fair Dealing Guidelines
  • Materials with access and/or use restrictions imposed by the donor of the material
  • Unprocessed private manuscript collections that have not been appraised
  • Fragile material that cannot be digitized using existing equipment in the Libraries
  • Bound manuscripts or other formats that cannot be digitized using existing equipment in the Libraries

My request was cancelled. What happened?

There are a number of reasons why Archives staff might have to cancel your digitization request:

  • The file has access and/or use restrictions.
  • The requestor did not agree to the conditions outlined in the digitization request form.
  • The request involves copyrighted material and exceeds the definition of "short excerpt" in the Dalhousie Fair Dealing Guidelines.
  • The materials are too fragile to be scanned with existing equipment in the Libraries.
  • The file contains a mix of material (e.g., textual records and photographs) that cannot easily be compiled into a PDF.
  • The file contains audiovisual material and/or electronic records that cannot be digitized with existing equipment in the Libraries.
  • Some or all textual materials are bound in a way that prevents suitable preservation scans from being created with existing equipment in the Libraries.

Archives staff staff may contact you to to clarify the nature of your request or provide alternatives that may support your research activities.

How long does it take to receive digital copies of archival material?

Delivery timelines for archival digitization services generally follow the Libraries' document delivery time guidelines. The University Archives works to provide timely digitization services, but the delivery times vary depending on a variety of factors. 

Members of the Dalhousie community may be accustomed to receiving scanned journal articles within a day or two even though delivery can take two to three weeks. Archival digitization is typically is more complicated and time consuming. Most requests for standard documents or photographs are fulfilled within one to two weeks.

If you have a deadline for your material please add a note in the Notes field. You can also email us at and Archives staff can give you an estimated time of arrival.

Urgent surcharge and same day service are not available.

Document Delivery Service

If you submit a digitization request to the Dalhousie University Archives for copies of items in the Libraries' general collection, Archives staff will cancel your request and refer you to the Libraries' Document Delivery services.