Course:1: Archives and Archivists
Lesson:Lesson Two: More About Historical Records
Topic:What Do Historical Records Look Like? Are They Always Old?


What Do Historical Records Look Like? Are They Always Old?

Historical records can be found in many physical formats, such as paper, microfilm, maps, movies, photographs, drawings, cassette tapes, videotapes, maps, and computer disks. And they don't have to be old!

Historical records can include:

  • An oral history of local veterans, recorded on audiocassette tapes
  • A video recording of a local school band performance
  • Digital photographs, stored on CD, recording a community bicentennial celebration

Remember that just because something is old, it isn't necessarily an historical record. An old textbook, published in 1898, is NOT a unique, unpublished resource. It might be a "rare book" but it is not a historical record.

Once in a while, though, something published might be archival - for example, if you have a copy of the Grapes of Wrath where someone has written notes about how his or her family had a similar experience. That particular book becomes archival--because of the added comments that make a unique and unpublished record on that family's particular experience.

media collage

A published McGuffey's Reader with an X
This 1836 edition of McGuffey's Reader is not unique or unpublished.