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Copy of QS 212: Ideas and Expression

Finding Information in Cultural Repositories

While you have become accustomed to using books, articles, and other secondary and tertiary sources for your research assignments, professional researchers also study primary sources located in archives, museums, special collections, and other cultural repositories.  Today, you will have an opportunity to learn more about political, social, and economic movements in the United States.   In addition to viewing digitized materials, you will also learn how to search for resources held by cultural repositories around the world.

Part 1: Topic Assignment

You will be assigned one political, social, or economic movement to research, including the following:

1. Communist Party of America (or communist movements more broadly)
2. Black Liberation Army
3. Socialist Party of America
4. Industrial Workers of the World/IWW (or labor movements more broadly)
5. Youth International Party
6. Black Panther Party
7. Weather Underground/Weathermen

While you will be working in small groups during this session, each member of your group is expected to complete each step of the assignment.  

Part 2: Finding Appropriate Cultural Repositories to Conduct Research

Don’t know where to start your search for a cultural repository that covers your topic?  With so many cultural repositories at your fingertips, you might feel overwhelmed.  Fortunately, there are some websites that can help researchers discover primary resources held by cultural repositories, such as Archives Grid.

  1. Open a new browser tab to ArchivesGrid (
  2. Conduct a search for your topic using the box in the upper right hand side of the screen.
  3. Open the Summary View tab at the top of the results screen.  This tab allows you to limit your results by topic, archive location, etc.  Under the group box, click on your topic.
  4. In the List View tab, you can browse the collections that match your search criteria.  Find a collection that you believe would provide insight into your topic and click on the “Read More” button.  Record the location of the collection, the collection name, and why it might shed light on your topic.  Please choose a collection that is not held at the University of Michigan - Special Collections Library or the Labadie Collection.

Part 3: Searching for Materials in a Special Collection

Just like libraries, some cultural repositories use catalogs to help researchers discover materials in their collections.  However, many archival and special collections use other means to make their resources accessible.  In this section, you will explore how finding aids are used by the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan to help researchers find useful materials.

  1. Open a new browser tab to the Special Collections Library Finding Aids webpage (   
  2. Browse the finding aid descriptions provided and determine a collection relevant to your topic.
  3. For the collection that you choose, click on the collection name link to open the finding aid.
  4. Take some time to browse through the information contained in the finding aid and record the following:
    1. In a sentence or two, describe what is stored in the collection and how it relates to your topic?
    2. Are there any access restrictions that a researcher should be aware of?
    3. What types of documents or artifacts does the collection contain that might be relevant to your topic?
    4. What box(es) in the collection would you be interested in looking at to learn more about your collection?

Part 4: Searching a Digitized Special Collection

In some instances, you might find that a cultural repository has digitized their collections for the public to view.  For the remainder of this assignment you will be looking at two digitized collections, one that is publicly available and one that is sold to libraries for researchers to use:

  1. Open a new browser tab to the Political Posters, Labadie Collection, University of Michigan webpage (
  2. Conduct a search for your topic and find a poster to review.
  3. After fully reviewing the poster, record a brief description of the poster that you found and how it could be used in a research project.


  1. Open a new browser tab to Archives Unbound: Federal Response to Radicalism in the 1960s (
  2. Conduct a search for your topic and browse through various documents to see what you can find. 
  3. Upon opening a document, keep in mind that the box on the left titled “Search within this document” contains hyperlinks to pages where your search term is mentioned.  
  4. Record a brief synopsis of what you find.