Archival Sources


Sometimes you may have to cite a source from a print collection or repository. Such works are often in limited circulation and may be hard to find. Provide as much information as will help the reader locate the item in question.

Basic Format

Here is the basic format:

Author, A. A. (Date of publication). Title [Description]. Collection name (retrieval information). Repository, Location.

Note that the description in square brackets is optional. It best to provide some extra description when the title is not very informative, or when the source lacks a title altogether.

The retrieval information consists of call numbers, box numbers, and so forth—basically whatever system the collection uses to categorize and sort entries.


Item in a Repository

The following example shows how you might cite a letter in an archive.

Tomlinson, B. N. (1891, September 13). [Letter to M. B. F. Spinks]. Onomasticon Archive (Spinks files, Box C133). Harrisburg, PA.

If the item comes from a private collection (so not housed in an official archive), delete the repository and location information and insert a reference to the private collector:

Nichols, C. (2003, May 1). [Letter to B. Appleyard]. Copy in possession of Bernice Stenson.

If you yourself possess the item, write Copy in possession of author.

However, if there is no way for the reader to access the source (e.g., if Bernice Stenson hates visitors), then provide only an in-text citation, and omit the entry from your reference list.

Multiple Items from the Same Collection

If you’re citing more than once from the same collection, provide just one entry:

Jones, E. T. (1875-1903). Correspondence. Jones Collection (CBG 199.004). Behavioural Psychology Archives, Oxbridge University, Oxbridge, England.

Within the body of your text you can then provide more detailed information:

(Jones, 1875-1903, Jones to B. Prinz, September 3, 1902)


If an interview is found in an archive, you can cite it as follows:

Killjoy, S. (2014, March 3). Interview by C. J. Stander [Tape recording]. History of Tooth Brushing Archive (BS3098.55). Oral History Library, Colgate University, Hamilton Village, NY.

Note that the person interviewed is listed as the author.

If the interview is transcribed, then omit or change the description in square brackets.


For other archival sources, adapt the basic format as necessary. To know your options, check out our page on the parts of an entry, and use the links provided.