Skip to Main ContentLogo

How Do I Cite Archival Material Guide

How to cite archival material located in the University of Regina Archives using APA, Chicago, and MLA citation styles.


Welcome to the How do I Cite Archival Material Guide. This guide provides examples for referencing archival material found at the University of Regina Archives and Special Collections.

Many course instructors and publishers require you to use a specific citation style, such as APA, Chicago, or MLA. Click on the relevant style guide sidebar for information on how to cite archival sources at the University of Regina using that particular style.

If your instructor or publisher does not have a style preference, the following Archer Library Guides may help you decide which style is the best one for your assignment or publication:

Why Cite Archival Sources?

You should keep track of your sources while doing research in the archives in order to cite the item properly (thus avoid charges of plagiarism) and to find the item at a later date.

Library books can be found in a specific place on a shelf according to the library's classification system. Even if we don't know a book's call number, we can often find it by browsing the shelves where books on the same subject are located.

We can't browse for archival records!!! Our unique archival records are boxed and grouped together according to their accession number and stored on shelves in one of our storage rooms (see photos on the left). One or more accessions make up a fonds or collection. A collection with many different accessions is likely to have records stored in different locations and not together in a single area. A shelf may hold boxes belonging to unrelated accessions and collections. In order to find an item in a specific folder in a particular box, you need key pieces of information.

Archival Material Arrangement

Unlike items in a library that are organized and catalogued according to subject classification systems (Dewey, Library of Congress), archival materials are unique and often found in a single location only. The arrangement of archival fonds or collections is based on the principle of provenance and original order. Each description will reflect the system by which the materials were originally used and created (if such a system was in place). If no original order is evident, then an order may be imposed by the archivist. The criteria used for any imposed arrangement can also vary, and might be based on functions, subjects, etc., as appropriate.

Archival fonds or collections normally have a hierarchical organization. Broadly, at the University of Regina Archives these are:

  • Fonds or Collection is the "whole of the records..." and the highest level of description.
    • Individual Accession within the Fonds or Collection.
      • File is "an organized unit of documents, usually within a series, brought together because they relate to the same subject, activity, or transaction". A single file - the intellectual collection of documents –may be found in more than one folder—the physical organization of those documents.
        1. Item is "an archival unit that can be distinguished from a group and that is complete in itself".

In the following example you can see these hierarchical levels which provide key pieces of information that help us locate a record among the items in a collection:

Citation Elements

By including these key pieces of information in your citations, you and other researchers will be able to track down the item again.

Citation Elements

Regardless of which style you use to cite your sources, all citations of archival materials from the University of Regina Archives and Special Collections typically include these elements or key pieces of information:

Title: title of the folder or item. If item is untitled, provide a short description in your citation

Name of Fonds or Collection: name given by the archival institution to the fonds or collection that contains the file or item

Accession number: unique number given by the archival institution to a specific collection within the fonds

Box number and Folder number: number of the box and folder where the item is physically stored

Repository: The name of the archival institution and its geographic location, in this case University of Regina Archives and Special Collections, Regina, SK, Canada

Digitized Sources

The University of Regina Archives and Special Collections has digitized and made available online selected archival sources. In this case there is a record in its original format (paper document, cassette tape, or other medium) in the collection, and a digitized version of the record at an online location.

In general, cite the online source like you would if you had viewed the source in its original format. Follow the rules of the citation style you chose or the one you were directed to use.

Then add a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) at the end of the citation. Some styles recommend or require the date on which you accessed the material.

For specific examples on citing online archival sources held in our collections, check out the applicable APA, Chicago, or MLA style guide sidebar.