There are many varieties of archives, and the types of materials they collect differ as well. Defining your research topic and knowing what sorts of materials you are looking for will help you determine the appropriate institutions to contact. Here is a brief overview of repository types:
College and university archives are archives that preserve materials relating to a specific academic institution. Such archives may also contain a "special collections" division (see definition below). College and university archives exist first to serve their parent institutions and alumni, and then to serve the public.
Examples: Stanford University Archives, Mount Holyoke College Archives.
Corporate archives are archival departments within a company or corporation that manage and preserve the records of that business. These repositories exist to serve the needs of company staff members and to advance business goals. Corporate archives allow varying degrees of public access to their materials depending on the company's policies and archival staff availability.
Examples: Ford Motor Company Archives, Kraft Foods Archives.
Government archives are repositories that collect materials relating to local, state, or national government entities.
Examples: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, the New York State Archives, City of Boston Archives.
Historical societies are organizations that seek to preserve and promote interest in the history of a region, a historical period, nongovernment organizations, or a subject. The collections of historical societies typically focus on a state or a community, and may be in charge of maintaining some governmental records as well.
Examples: The Wisconsin Historical Society, the National Railway Historical Society, the San Fernando Valley Historical Society.
Museums and archives share the goal of preserving items of historical significance, but