Gaps and Silences in Archives and Special Collections
While archives have been viewed as unbiased repositories of the past, they are in fact spaces of gaps and silences. These gaps and silences are due to historical, institutional, and internalized racism, classism, sexism, and ignorance of marginalized genders and sexualities. Bias enters both into what you find or don't find in the the archives--archival silence--and what you read in the archivist's description. Archives have never been neutral.
(she/her/hers) Reference and instruction specialist for Kennedy Library's Special Collections and Archives. Background in the study of history and K-12 teaching. CP Alum. Not-practicing letterpress printer. Passionate about increasing use and access to archives.
Special Collections and Archives
Kennedy Library, Cal Poly
University Archives staff have digitized many of the materials in University Archives and provide public online access to these materials. They are found in two free, public databases: Digital Commons and University Archives Online Collections.
Use * as a wildcard. For example, searching Mex* will search Mexico, Mexican, and any word that begins with Mex.
Use quotation marks to search a phrase. Searching "International Students" will search for that phrase, rather than any use of international AND student.
Use Ctrl+F (PC) or Command+F (Mac) to search keywords inside a pdf.
Create an advanced search that searches the years you are focusing on to get targeted results
When you find a helpful source, see what terms the authors are using. Then try searching those terms as keywords.
Can't find what you are looking for? Try to broaden your search.
Searching for individuals: start with a search by their last name. Then expand. For example, I could be referred to as "Sorvetti," "Ms. Sorvetti", "Laura Sorvetti" "Laura Ann Sorvetti", "L. Sorvetti," "L.A.Sorvetti"....
If you find a specific news story, browse the issues before and after that article to see if there were any follow-up or related articles.
Please note that you may encounter materials that include offensive, derogatory, and out-of-date perspectives, images, and terms.
FYI About OCR
The computer uses something called "Optical Character Recognition" (OCR) to read scanned text pages. If the original page is hard to read, the computer may not produce good OCR and the text will not be read by the computer correctly. See this example from a scan of the Cal Poly student newspaper:
Sometimes you may not find what you are searching for because the computer did not read the text correctly! Try many different keywords to search if you are not finding what you are looking for.