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Introduction to Primary Source Research: Finding Primary Sources

Searching the A&M Catalogue at the WVRHC

To explore the archival collections at the WVRHC, please use the Guide to Archives and Manuscripts

Use the following search tips to help you locate materials

  • The search system disregards capitalization. For example, searching for "diary" will match "DIARY," "Diary," and "diary."
  • Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) between search terms to either narrow or broaden results. See the "Boolean Operators" page of the Databases Search Tips Research Guide for examples.
  • If you enter multiple search terms, the system will search as if they were separated by OR. For example, entering Civil War will search for all records containing the word Civil as well as all records containing the word War.
  • If you enter multiple terms in quotes, the system will search for a phrase. For example, entering "annual report" will only search for all records containing the phrase "annual report".
  • Use the asterisk character as a wildcard. For example, entering wom*n will search for woman and women.
  • Use the asterisk character for truncation. For example, entering child* will search for child, children, childhood, etc.
  • ArchivesSpace, the host site for the WVRHC archives catalogue, searches everything when you use the search bar. This means that all the information that has been entered into each record will be searched. It's best to do a search and then use the filters on the right hand side to refine the results.
    • You can also use the filters to search within some collections. This function is only available for collections that have at least have Series level description

Refining by Date

To filter by date within a chronological span, enter the initial and concluding dates of the span in the two search boxes following "Years". For example, entering "1790" and "1800" will find records with material dating from 1790 up to and including 1800, an eleven year span.

Dates in cataloging records represent the date material was created. For example, if a genealogy collection includes a family history that was created in 1980 regarding family members who immigrated in 1750, the date field in the cataloging record will only include 1980; 1750 could appear in another part of the record.

But, be aware, that not all records in the catalogue have a date. For example, some materials don't have a date and others maybe be listed as nineteenth century, so these won't show up when you refine by date.

Refining Results by Types, Subjects, and Names

The search engine, by default, allows filtering of search results by "types" of records. To filter results, select facets on the right side of the screen to narrow your search, including:

  • Collections (for descriptions of entire collections only)
  • Archival Record (for entire collections, and of their component box, folder, and item level contents)
  • Digital Record (usually for links to digitized content)


The search engine also allows for filtering by subjects and names. Again, to filter results, select facets on the right side of the screen.

  • Subject (for example, Autograph albums, Monongalia County (W. Va.), Temperance, etc.)
  • Names (includes organizations, individuals, and families)

Searching for University records

Due to the way searches work in ArchivesSpace, a search for West Virginia University will bring up every record in the catalogue. So, to find University records about a particular subject, try the following (film as an example here):

  • "West Virginia University" as Creator 
  • OR "West Virginia University" as Subject 
  • AND film* as Keyword

Locating Materials Outside the WVRHC

Keep in mind that material related to a single person or entity may not all be located in the same repository. It's good to look around and see where relevant material may be located.

Other West Virginia focused primary source databases can be found on the WVRHC website. You can also explore Archiving West Virginia and the WV State Archives.

If you're interested in exploring a wider range of primary sources, check out this research guide.

To search repositories across the US and UK & Ireland, try ArchiveGrid and Archive Finder.