Archival Resources


Morgan Brooks, posted on February 24, 2017

The blog for the Material World of Modern Segregation project hopes to not only share the findings from our research, but also give insight to the processes of site-based study. In this post, our goal is to provide a guide to some of the local resources for archival research. Many of our contributors rely heavily on the same archival resources available to you for conducting their project research. Archives can seem daunting at first because each archive is slightly different with their collections and expectations. This guide will help you know what to expect on your first visit, how to find what you’re looking for, and how to get the most out of local resources. Archives provide opportunities for discoveries. Arrive with questions in mind you would like to pursue, but remain open to taking new paths of research as you explore the rich and often surprising finds of the archives!

A shortened reference of the addresses and hours can be found in the ‘Resources” tab, but here we intend to go into more detail. Hopefully this post will encourage you to conduct your own research in areas of interest to you. St. Louis is a city full of rich history with many tools for uncovering the important stories embedded in its physical sites.

What exactly is an archive?

Archives contain documents or artifacts, which are organized into folders, boxes, and collections, referenced by a finding aid. Examples of archival resources include newspapers on microfilm; collections of papers, photographs, or records; artifacts; or audio/visual materials.

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is like an index to the collections so the archivists and researchers know where to find them. Some finding aids are digitized and searchable, but in most cases some portion of the archive’s collections is not yet online. It’s always a good idea to reference the finding aid online, if it is available, and then consult the archivist or librarian to see if there are any other related sources.

What is a card catalog?

A card catalog serves as a keyword search that exists in paper form. Archive collections that have not yet been digitized often use card catalogs as a non-digital finding aid.

Can I take photos in the archive?

Most archives allow flashless photography. Most do not allow tripods. Some require documentation of the sources you photograph. Other archives charge a small fee for each photograph taken. Make sure to check the policies of the archive you plan to visit.

What should I bring to the archives?

Most archives offer a bag check since backpacks, purses, and bags typically are not allowed into reading rooms (the room where the collections are brought to you). Do not bring drinks, water, or snacks into the archives. Bring pencils, not pens. Do bring identification in case it is required to sign in. Since bags are not allowed in, sometimes it may be helpful to carry your pencil, notepad, phone, and wallet in a gallon sized clear Zip-loc bag. Archives have different policies on what you are allowed to bring in, so make sure to double check the website or be ready to check a bag.

What should I expect on my first visit?

Most archives require you to sign in and make a request for your desired source material. An archivist or librarian will retrieve your source materials from storage and bring them out to the reading room for you. In some cases reading rooms include materials that may be accessed directly by the researchers (such as historical publications).

Mercantile Library

1 University Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63121

Link to hours:

Link to policies and procedures:

Link to photography policy:

Special Collections Directory (links to finding aids for individual collections on left hand menu):

Research guides:


Missouri Digital Heritage

Online resource for digitally accessible collections from across the state of Missouri:


Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center

225 South Skinker Boulevard, St. Louis, 63105

Tuesday-Friday: 12-5, Saturday 10-5

Link to policies and procedures: 

Link to finding aid:

Link to cross-collection search:

Information about the card-catalog:


State Historical Society of Missouri (St. Louis location)

1 University Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63121

Tuesday-Friday: 8-4:45

Digital collections search:

Reference collection catalog:

Information on newspaper collections:


St. Louis County Library Headquarters

1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd, St. Louis, 63131-3598

Monday-Thursday: 9-9, Friday and Saturday: 9-5, Sunday 1-5

Link to resource page about history and genealogy center:



St. Louis Public Library, Central Library

1301 Olive Street, St. Louis,  63103

Monday-Thursday: 10-9, Friday-Saturday: 10-6, Sunday: 1-5

Catalog search (for books):

Clippings files and other resources about St. Louis can be accessed in the St. Louis Room of Central Library and the Special Collections, also housed in Central Library.


Washington University in St. Louis University Archives

Special Collections, Level 1, Olin Library, Danforth Campus

Monday-Friday: 9-5

Link to overview of collections:

Link to policies and procedures:

Link to finding aid:


St. Louis University Archives

3650 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis, 63108

Monday-Friday: 9-5

Link to archive FAQ:

Link to finding aid:

Link to digital collections search:


Jesuit Archives

4515 West Pine, St. Louis, 63108

Appointments only, Monday-Friday, 8:30-11:45 and 12:45-4:30

Link to policies:


American Memory from the Library of Congress

Digital resource (images, photographs, newspapers, periodicals, etc):

Information on mission and history of the American Memory project:


Campbell House Museum

1508 Locust Street, St. Louis, 63103

By appointment, contact:

Information on collections pertaining to Robert Campbell and the Campbell Family, with a link to the online database search:


Missouri State Archives (Jefferson City)

600 West Main Street, Jefferson City, 65102

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 8-5, Thursday: 8-8, Saturday: 9-3

Information regarding policies and collection content:


If you would like to identify sources related to specific topics (such as Education, Environmental, and Religious), check out the Directory of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the St. Louis Area:


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