Research Guide

We welcome any and all researchers and visitors. However, a visit to the Media Commons Archives is a different experience from visiting another department or a library. Much of what you will experience stems from the unique way that information is organized in archives and special collections and the uniqueness of the materials themselves. Archives are non-circulating collections made up of original and often un-published material. The materials are arranged according to how their records creator/compiler organized them, as opposed to by subject. All this also affects how you do your research and the amount of time you need for your visit. Here are some things you should know prior to contacting Media Commons Archives to make an appointment.


The Media Commons' collections are not browsable to the public like a library’s collection would be. To browse and search for items, researchers use archival descriptions in finding aids and listings which are available from our archivists. After consultation with an archivist, researchers then request materials.

Materials held at the Media Commons Archives can be viewed only in our Reading Room or our Archival Digitization and Playback studio.

The department has limited hours of operation. Please make note of these times (see Hours)

Initial Steps

Contact an archivist and request a listing for the collection you are interested in.

Request specific items or boxes from that listing.

Once the requested materials arrive we will reach out to you to make an appointment to come in to look at them.

Handling of Materials

Masks are mandatory in the reading room.

Materials held at the Media Commons Archives are often fragile, rare and unique.

Use care when handling items, such as when turning pages or lifting them from their folders. Gloves (which we provide) are needed to handle photographs.

Only pencils and laptops may be used while consulting material.

If you wish to take photographs of materials, please ask permission and fill out appropriate forms prior to retrieving a camera.

Food and beverages are not permitted anywhere in the Reading Room or Playback room.


It is very important to set aside enough lead time to conduct your research at the Media Commons Archives. There are many factors to take into account, such as the availability, accessibility, and condition of the materials. To book an appointment, email one week prior to your proposed visit. Please include a list of materials you wish to consult. You will then receive an email confirming your appointment time based on booking availability.

Media Commons Archives staff can:

  • Help you identify and locate materials related to your research
  • Help you read and understand finding aids and guides
  • Answer questions you have about accessing material and material availability

Media Commons Archives will not:

  • Conduct research on your behalf
  • Choose a topic on your behalf for an assignment
  • Select items on your behalf