Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College Archives and Special Collections


The Archives and Special Collections for Students

  • What are the Archives and Special Collections?

    The terms "archives" and "special collections" are often used interchangeably and thus, incorrectly. While there are many similarities, there are several important distinctions between these two collections of documents.

    Archives are a collection of historical records that are established to preserve the lives of individuals and organizations. Archives are comprised of primary source documents, which have been accumulated over a lifetime. The Marion B. Gebbie Archives was established to preserve the history of Wheaton College. Some of the materials found in the Marion B. Gebbie Archives include interviews, photographs, recordings, copies of College publications (Rushlight, Nike, etc...), class scrapbooks, administrative records of Wheaton Female Seminary and Wheaton College, materials related to student organizations and academic pursuits, and much more.

    The Special Collections include rare books, manuscripts, papers, clothing and other items that are of unique value and importance to the study of material culture, history, literature and other subjects. Such materials in the Marion B. Gebbie Special Collections are not necessarily related to Wheaton College or its history. Often items in the Special Collections are fragile, rare, and valuable. Therefore, they do not circulate and must be viewed in the Gebbie Reading Room. Particular strengths of the Wheaton's Special Collections include the history of the printed book, and women's issues and organization, and gender issues.

    • Research, Scanning, and Photocopying 
      All students are required to do their own research, scanning, and photocopying. The Archives staff will not photocopy or scan materials on behalf of students. However a photocopier and scanner are provided in the Archives for student use after materials have been examined by Archives Staff and judged sturdy enough to withstand the process.
  • What is the difference between Primary and Secondary sources?

    Primary sources are firsthand, contemporary accounts of events created by individuals during that period of time or several years later (such as correspondence, diaries, memoirs and personal histories). These original records can be found in several media such as print, artwork, and audio and visual recording. Examples of primary sources include manuscripts, newspapers, speeches, cartoons, photographs, video, and artifacts. Primary sources can be described as those sources that are closest to the origin of the information. They contain raw information and thus, must be interpreted by researchers.

    Secondary sources are closely related to primary sources and often interpret them. These sources are documents that relate to information that originated elsewhere. Secondary sources often use generalizations, analysis, interpretation, and synthesis of primary sources. Examples of secondary sources include textbooks, articles, and reference books.

  • I have to write a research paper using primary sources. Where do I start?

    If you've never written a research paper using primary sources, it is important to understand that the process is different from using only second sources. Many students discover that finding and gaining access to primary source documents can be difficult. The Library website has a valuable guide to locating primary source documents. Follow the link below to be redirected to that web page:

    Students are encouraged to seek help from Archivists or Research Librarians to aid in their research projects. Archivists and Research Librarians will be able to aid students in a variety of ways including helping to locate primary source materials. Students should conact an Archivist or a Research Librarian directly, either by phone or e-mail.

    After locating appropriate primary sources, it is necessary for students to anaylze and interpret them. To many students, this taks can seem arduous, if not overwhelming. There are many resources available in the library as well as online, which are helpful. The National Archives website has very useful analysis worksheets that can help students to determine the significance of primary source documents. Links to PDF files of these worksheets are listed below:

    Written Document |Artifact |Cartoon |Map | Motion Picture | Photograph | Poster| Sound Recording

  • How do I cite primary source materials?

    Primary source citation depends on the type of primary source you are using (i.e. a law document, newspaper, etc...) and the style of citation required (i.e. MLA, APA, etc...). After you have determined these two factors, you may want to locate a particular citation guide in the reference section of the library. These guides are non-circulating and are for library use only. One of the most widely used citation guides may be found through this HELEN link:

    In addition, the National Archives website has an extensive guide to citing primary sources. Follow the link below for a complete set of guidelines for citing primary sources from the National Archives and Records Adminstration:

    Citing Primary Records in the National Archives

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