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Nevada Political Archive: About Nevada Political Archive

Political Papers at the University of Nevada, Reno, University Libraries

Political Papers @ UNR

The University Libraries of the University of Nevada, Reno hold a rich collection of political papers covering the entire history of the state, from the early statehood era to the present. These collections contain personal and professional papers of individual politicians, activists, organizational leaders, and the official records of organizations. In many cases there are also other materials such as published books by and about individuals and oral histories compiled by the University of Nevada Oral History Program.

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Eva Adams. Photograph.Contribute to the development of political papers at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Learn more about supporting the University Libraries.

Parts of this project are made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Nevada State Library and Archives.

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Processing Political Papers

PROCESSING political archival material is a very detailed, time-consuming, and intellectually challenging procedure normally done by an "Archivist," a professional level position. Being a good archivist requires training and dedication. Some of the steps an archivist takes in processing a collection include:

  1. Accessioning: the archivist records a brief summary of who created the collection or where it came from, how the collection was acquired, what kinds of materials it contains, how large the collection is the collection condition and a preliminary review of the contents and organization. 
  2. Inventory & Assessment: the archivist performs a detailed initial inventory of the collection to understand its condition and importance.
  3. Preserving:
    • Original boxes and folders are replaced with acid-free boxes and folders.
    • Different formats including oversized materials, audio/visual resources, and photographs may require placement in special archival containers.
    • Materials in need of repair or conservation are treated (acidic or damaged paper, for example).
    • Boxes are placed in a climate-controlled environment.
    • Digital copies may be created for public use in order to preserve the condition of the originals.
  4. Arrangement:
    • Although the original organization is preserved as much as possible, the archivist designs an intellectual organizational structure that makes the collection more useful for researchers and scholars using specific “groups,” or “series” which might include chronological ordering, election terms, subject files, committees, or other designations.
    • Contents from the boxes are rearranged according to the organization plan into the various series and subseries. Boxes and folders are numbered according to the series plan.
    • Duplicate or irrelevant material may be removed or treated separately.
    • Different formats (photographs, audio/visual, published books, etc.) may be separated or organized in other ways outside of the original collection.
  5. Description & Cataloging:
    • An overall catalog record is created that gives a general description of the collection. This record is included in the main library catalog and shared with other libraries through OCLC WorldCat.
    • A detailed finding aid is created, which includes information about the creator of the collection and the scope and contents of the materials. The finding aid also itemizes and thoroughly describes the contents of each folder and box located within the collection. A printed hard copy of each collection’s finding aid is available in Special Collections, but users can also locate and access the finding aids online using a variety of search engines and platforms.


Frequently Asked Questions

Detail of a historic Nevada map with Carson Sink.

  • Q: What are "political papers"?
    • A: Political papers encompass a wide range of materials. They might include personal correspondence, committee documents, official reports and studies, transcripts of speeches the individual gave, campaign information, staff and administrative files, and anything else that might relate to the person's terms in office or political life.
  • Q: Where do the political papers in your collection come from? How did you get them?
    •  A: Most personal political papers come to us as donations from the individual or from their estate.
  • Q: Why are some collections listed as "unprocessed"?
    • Making papers accessible and useable by the public actually takes an incredible amount of work. (See the center column here: Processing Political Papers.) Because of limited staff resources, decisions have to be made about what can reasonably be done.
  • Q: How can I use the collections?
    • The political papers are housed in the Special Collections and University Archives department of the University Libraries. These unique and one-of-a-kind materials do require that you use the materials on site in the Special Collections reading room on the third floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. The finding aids listed on The Collections tab will help you discover what parts of the archive you want to examine. Some of the materials are digitized (links are provided), but most of the material is in a non-digitized form: manuscript archival boxes.