Skip to Main Content

University Library


MUS528: Music Research in Archives: What are Archives?

This guide will help you navigate Archon, the Sousa Archives' collection managment system.

Different meanings for one word


1. Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control; permanent records.

2. The division within an organization responsible for maintaining the organization's records of enduring value. Types of archives: Corporate, Government, Special Collections.

3. An organization that collects the records of individuals, families, or other organizations; a collecting archive.

4. The professional discipline of administering such collections and organizations.

5. The building (or portion thereof) housing archival collections.

6. A published collection of scholarly papers, especially as a periodical.

What are archives?

Archives are the materials created either by a person, family or organization in the course of their life or daily business. These materials, often referred to as primary sources, are preserved because they have deemed to have enduring value, which means that they can be of use to other people outside of the realm in which these documents were created. Aside from paper-based documents such as letters, diaries, and business records, archives also keep photographs, electronic records, sound recordings, video footage, and artifacts of different kinds.

Are Archives Different from Libraries?


Archives are similar to libraries but they manage their materials in a slightly different manner. For instance, archives group their materials in collections or record series by creator.  This is called provenance, which means that all the documents created by one person or group are kept together to preserve their contextual information.  These materials are often kept in the same order that the creators originally had them in (when possible, of course) to facilitate access and to preserve the relationship between distinct sub-groups of material. This is called preserving the original order.

Archives do not circulate their holdings since these materials are unique and letting these materials leave our facility is a risk we'd rather not take. Since our materials come in varied formats, we tend to keep them in boxes and folders that you can request whenever you want to look at them. That's why you must always look at archival material in the archives, but that is easy and it only takes some preparation before your visit. 

Archives also have a record of their collections or record series in access tools called Finding Aids. These present you, the user, with a snapshot of the contents of a collection as well as an inventory of the contents of the boxes and folders.

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
University Archives
Room 146 Library
1408 West Gregory Drive
Urbana, IL 61801
Telephone: (217) 333-0798
Social: Twitter Page