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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 200D: Family in History

Guide to using the library for historical research.


Marriage for ModernsWho constructs the historical record, and who mediates your access to it? Many people and institutions play a role, beginning with the people who possess the knowledge and technologies needed to produce and reproduce texts. Institutions like libraries and archives also play a role, and the present guide primarily addresses historical research in libraries. To use libraries effectively (which is to say, intentionally and systematically), you need to understand what a library is, and how it is organized, because the way in which a library organizes the historical record tends to privilege certain types of inquiry, and even to elicit certain conclusions about the past. And no, not even Google or mass digitization has been able to alter the historical record's peculiar, discursive contours, nor has it been able to fill gaps in the historical record or retrieve documents never saved.  In short: your attempt to uncover overdetermination in history is itself overdetermined.


Image by Godsey from Monkmeyer and Talmage C. Johsnon, from the digital collection Protestant Family at Duke University.

If you have any questions about this guide, or about your research for this class, please don't hesitate to contact one of our librarians:

Celestina Savonius-Wroth
Assistant Professor, University Library
History Librarian
246 Main Library
(217) 300 3520 |

Courtney Becks
Assistant Professor, University Library
African American Studies Librarian
246 Main Library
(217) 300-7029 |


Guide created by Geoffrey Ross, September 2, 2015.