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University Archives & Special Collections


Welcome to the University Archives and Special Collections' Guide

The University Archives is the official repository of records for Florida Gulf Coast University and serves as its institutional memory. The Special Collections curates a collection of rare and unique materials documenting the cultural and environmental history of Southwest Florida. Our team works to expand and preserve our collections, develop scholarly resources, and provide global access to the collections through DigitalFGCU.

Learn more about University Archives and Special Collections

What are Archives and Why I Should I Use Them?

archivist showing materials and patronsThe textbook definition of archives is "collections of records that have been selected for permanent preservation because of their historical value". As archivists, we collect different types of material because they provide documentary evidence of past events and they can be used to study, interpret and understand the world around us. Some things that we collect:

  • photographs
  • letters
  • maps
  • reports
  • videos
  • and more!

Archives and primary sources are not just for history majors! FGCU Archives collects material that covers many different topics that can be useful to research in different disciplines. You can use this guide to select your discipline from the tabs and see what collections could support your research.

Primary v. Secondary Sources

Subject Primary Source Secondary Source
Art Salvador Dali Lithographs A video on the history of Salvador Dali's life
Environmental Studies Wetland Monitoring Plan for FGCU Book on the Everglades restoration plans
Engineering Document detailing FGCU's construction on the south entrance  NTIS Database
Humanities Letter by Eleanor Roosevelt on the Meaning of Civil Rights  News article about Eleanor Roosevelt's humanitarian efforts
Forensic Studies  Notes and photographs detailing the investigation of the Romanov Remains A documentary about the Romanov's murder

How to use the FGCU Finding Aid

ArchivesSpace at FGCU

ArchivesSpace is the database that contains descriptions of the University Archives and Special Collections held at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Bradshaw Library. Some of these collections include university founding documents, past issues of EagleNews, manuscript and artifact collections, and organizational and business records represented in two repositories: University Archives and Special Collections. The navigation menu on the left-hand side of the page will guide researchers through how to navigate and search ArchivesSpace, as well as how to read a collection record.


ArchivesSpace's navigation bar is on the top of each page and allows users to browse the database by Repository, Collection, Digital Objects, Accession, Subject, Name, or Classification. Users can also navigate back to the home page by clicking the "Home" button on the navigation bar. 
Repositories - Browse records created by a specific repository.
Collections - Browse an alphabetical list of collections in ArchivesSpace.
Magnifying Glass - Search the archives.

Identifying the Repository

The records described in ArchivesSpace are located in two different repositories. Collections can be identified by the repository that they are located in either on the search results page or the collections finding aid. 

FGCU ArchivesSpace Finding Aid Repository

Reading a Collection Record

Once a user has identified the collection that they would like to work with, the finding aid will provide more information regarding what is in the collection. The collection overview provides descriptions, dates, and historical or biographical information. The collection record page also will allow users to generate a citation and search in the individual collection. 

Items and materials in larger collections are typically organized into a series that groups relevant files or items together. 

Glossary of Terms

Accession: the materials physically and officially transferred to a repository as a unit at a single time. Accessions may be unprocessed, and portions of accession may not be immediately available for research. If you would like access to an accession, we recommend you contact staff at the University Archives and Special Collections by emailing 
Collection: a set of archival or manuscript materials that were aggregated in some way. A collection can represent a grouping of materials assembled by a person, organization, or repository from a variety of sources. A collection can also be composed of materials that are topically or temporally related, or they may share no relation other than the individual or organization that gathered them together.
Collection Number: a unique number is given to a collection for identification purposes. 
File: related documents that are kept together in a folder. 
Finding Aid: a resource that places archival materials in context by consolidating information about the collection. Examples of information typically found in a finding aid include: important dates; how the collection was acquired and processed; where the collection came from; a biographical note about the individual or organization relevant to the collection; the scope of the collection; subject headings related to the information topics within the collection; and an inventory of the materials within the collection, organized by boxes or folders. The finding aid can also give information about where the items in the collection are physically located. 
Item: a thing that is complete in itself. 
Repository: the place where collections are stored and cared for. A collection's repository refers to the physical location where the collection is housed. 
Series: a group of similar records that are related in some way. Often they are grouped together as the result of being created, received, or used in the same activity.
Subseries: A body of documents within a series readily distinguished from the whole by filing arrangement, type, form, or content.
Source: SAA Dictionary of Archives Terminology

Searching for Materials
  1. Begin a basic search by entering your search terms in the search bar located on the ArchivesSpace homepage. You may limit the search by record type, searchable fields, and date.
    • We recommend keeping Keyword as the searchable type because it searches the entire text.
  2. Record types allow you to customize the type of records you want a search to return:
    • All record types: Searches using this will return all records in the database, including names, subjects, series, files, and locations.
    • Collection: Searches using this will only return records of complete collections, rather than names, subjects, series, files, and locations.
  3. The searchable fields are:
    • Keyword: Searches the entire text of the finding aid.
    • Title: Searches titles of the materials described, including collection records and the series and files within collections. If you know the precise title of the material you are looking for, searching by title can be very helpful.
    • Creator: Primarily searches the names of the persons, families, and organizations who created the collections. Please note that limiting by “Creator” will primarily search only creators of collections, not individual records or items within collections. Most creators are connected only at the collection level and not at series or file level.
    • Subject: Searches by subject headings assigned to materials by archivists and librarians, e.g. Baseball.
    • Notes: Searches the processing information, which gives insight into who arranged the collection and the various alterations made to the collection.
    • Identifier: Searches by identifier, which is a unique number by which materials are tracked and requested.
  4. Searching by date is approximate, and results may fall outside the date span you enter. For example, if you search for records between 1970 and 1990, your results will likely show collections and series with broader date ranges, such as a result with a date span of 1900-1999 since that date range includes the years 1970-1990.
  5. You may construct a more complex search by selecting the + icon and adding additional search parameters.
Developing Keyword Searches

Keywords are what we use to search databases, but rarely does a single keyword produce perfect or complete results. Resources may not be described how you expect, and this is why approaching a search with multiple terms will produce the best outcome. 

When formulating keywords, focus on:

  • Identifying the main concepts of your topic or research question
  • Brainstorming synonyms and antonyms
  • Spelling out any words that are abbreviated
  • Avoiding abstract concepts as search terms

Example Search

Research Question: What is the history of the Everglades and how are they a unique ecosystem?
Keywords: Everglades, Florida, swamp, marsh, wetlands, mangroves, ecosystem, flood control, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, cypress, Miami, manatees, alligators, sawgrass, Kissimmee River, biodiversity, coastal prairie, aquifer, environmental restoration

Filtering Results

After running a search, users can filter the returned results by using the facets on the right-hand side of the window. 

  • Filter Results
    • Search Within Results: Filter results by keywords within search results.
    • By Year: Filter results by the year.
  • Additional Filters
    • Repository: filter results by a repository.
    • Type: Filter results by record type, including archival record, person, subjects, and organization.
    • Subject: Filter by subject headings assigned to materials by archivists and librarians. This filter only displays the 20 most used subjects in the results.
    • Language: Filter by languages found in the record.
    • Name: Filter by names and organizations. This filter only displays the 20 most used names in the results.