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UHCL Archives and Special Collections

Information on planning research at the UHCL Archives and Special Collections; created by Erin Henry and Matthew M. Peek

Basics of Citing UHCL Archival Materials and Collections

Citing all sources is required for class assignments, theses, published works, or other works that rely on content from other sources than the creator's self-produced content. Primary sources can be defined as "a document or record containing firsthand information or original data on an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources are usually created by individuals who experienced the event and recorded or wrote about it. Because of this, primary sources usually reflect the viewpoint of the participant or observer" (Source 1).

Examples of primary sources you will find in the UHCL Archives and Special Collections includes:

  • Personal papers or manuscript materials
  • Original research materials (like for a thesis or manuscript)
  • Letters and diaries
  • Photographic formats (photographs, 35mm slides, negatives, color transparencies, glass plate negatives, etc.)
  • Oral Histories
  • Ephemera (such as brochures, pamphlets, flyers, handouts, etc.)
  • Newspapers written at the time of the event
  • Operational records for a university, business, or organization
  • Maps
  • Audiovisual recordings (motion picture films, amateur films, audiocassette tapes, VHS tapes, reel-to-reel audio tape, etc.)
  • Manuals, handbooks, and notebooks
  • Architectural records

Some archival materials may not be primary sources, such as a 35mm slide that reproduced a photograph from 30 years earlier during an event--the slide was not created at the time of the event, and the image is a later copy. Primary and archival materials and sources do not fit into many typical citation styles, because the materials found in an archive or cultural repository are often unique with different means of production, date creation, titling (many items have no given titles), and the nature of the formats on which they are records.

People who might try to locate your sources later on will need to know exactly where and how to retrieve the materials. Without citations of archival materials, it can be challenging to find a specific letter in a collection of 1,000 letters spread across 25 archival boxes. The format of your citation will depend upon the citation style you use (e.g. The Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association, etc.), but all have common elements.

When you are researching the archives, you should record or jot down information from the finding aid or guide to the collection, as well labels on the folder and box. You should do so even if not all the information is required in the citation itself for your course paper, thesis, etc. Citing primary sources is very challenging. You should ask archivists, librarians, or your professor for assistance if you do not know how to format the citations.


Source 1: Much of the information for this page on primary source citation comes directly, with modifications, from the Primary and Secondary Sources LibGuides page, by Alexis Hickey, University of Houston-Victoria Library, viewed online at

Structure of Archival Material Citations

Every collection of archival materials can have differences in how materials are titled or labeled. A lot of the reasons for the differences are due to the formats the materials were made out of or recorded on, the sizes of the materials, and the content of the materials. There are basic elements to cite from most archival collections, which are arranged usually in numbered boxes and folders within numbered collections. Some archival collections are arranged as individually-numbered items, such as film reels or maps (Source 1--see above for citation).

The basic elements that should appear in your citation of UHCL archival materials are:

  • The Original Archival Item Itself: Include the creator, page, section, and date information where necessary.
    • Example: Shuttle Ground Systems Requirements Preparation Guide (this is the folder title and a version of the original document title, which was too long to fit on a folder title.)
    • You can include the date if required, but usually a folder title or document title is sufficient. The date for the above document is March 1, 1976.
  • Box and Folder Number 
    • Example: Box 2, Folder 3
  • Collection: Include the title of the collection and the collection number.
    • Example: Robert Heselmeyer Papers, HSF-56
  • Repository: Where is the item held?
    • Example: University of Houston-Clear Lake Archives and Special Collections, Alfred R. Neumann Library, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX 77058-1002
  • Final Citation:
    • Shuttle Ground Systems Requirements Preparation Guide, Box 2, Folder 3, Robert Heselmeyer Papers, HSF-56, University of Houston-Clear Lake Archives and Special Collections, Alfred R. Neumann Library, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX 77058-1002

The general structure for UHCL Archives and Special Collections holdings are as follows, with you filling in the text type listed in the brackets and deleting the brackets:

  • [Item name or title], [Box Numbers], [Folder Numbers], [Collection Name/Title], [Collection Number], University of Houston-Clear Lake Archives and Special Collections, Alfred R. Neumann Library, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX 77058-1002

Citations for individual items not in a collection can be challenging, so consult with the UHCL Archvies staff on how best to do this.

Johnson Space Center History Collection Citation Format

Materials in the Johnson Space Center History Collection must follow a federal citation style that is different than the UHCL Archives' collections' citation format, due to the nature in which the collection's materials are organized in series and subseries/subsections.

Johnson Space Center History Collection records citations should follow this format:

  • "Document title," Date, Box Number, Subseries/Collection Title (if applicable), Series Title, Johnson Space Center History Collection, University of Houston-Clear Lake Archives and Special Collections,  Alfred R. Neumann Library, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX 77058-1002
Bayou Building 2402, 2700 Bay Area Blvd, Houston, TX 77058-1002