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University Archives

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Primary Sources

Getting started using the institutional records and publications of Boston College, as well as Faculty and Alumni papers.

Tell Us Your Story

Tell Us Your Story: The Boston College University Archives invites all members of the BC community to contribute their stories documenting life in a time of pandemic. Help us preserve your unique records of the COVID-19 experience for future use in research and teaching.

Primary sources

Primary sources are firsthand accounts of events that were created contemporaneously to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness. Examples include autobiographies and memoirs; diaries, correspondence, and personal letters; electronic communications such as email and text; interviews and oral histories; photographs and audiovisual recordings; and newspaper articles. 

Alumni and faculty papers

Alumni and faculty papers more closely represent personal papers than office records. These collections--sometimes voluminous and other times quite small--document the personal experience of various aspects of life and work at Boston College and academic pursuits. Most of these papers can be found through the catalog. Some are not yet cataloged. When in doubt, please contact us and ask!

Digitized newspapers, publications, and yearbooks

Sections from the University Archives have been digitized and are available online. We use a few platforms for browsing. 

Dissertations and theses

Boston College began offering graduate programs in the 1920s. Since then the format of masters theses and doctoral dissertations has changed with the times: from the early technology of print books to microforms (both microfilm and microfiche) and now to PDFs. Please see the guide on Dissertations & Theses to learn how to optimize your search for a BC dissertation or master's thesis.

Office Records

Institutional records of Boston College offices are primarily closed; however, you can request permission to access specific files. While some lists of office records are available at the Burns Library, it is often best to start this phase of your research by speakihttps://libguides.bc.edu/burns/contactng with us.

Most of the President's Office records prior to 1969 are available for research. These records provide a high-level administrative viewpoint on decisions and happenings at Boston College over the years. 

Note that nearly every set of records has files closed for privacy reasons. Generally these are employee and student information, which will remain closed even if permission is granted for related files.

The records from tenures of Fr. Monan and Fr. Leahy's are not available. 

Photographic collections

Photographs are wonderful primary sources! Areas of photographic holdings in the University Archives are:

When working with photographs, you should be prepared for/aware of a few things:

  • You'll be asked to wear gloves to protect the chemical surface of the photograph from the oils of your fingertips.
  • Copyrighted photographs are mixed in with photographs for which Boston College owns the copyright. This can be an issue if reproductions are desired for other than personal use. To learn more about Burns Library's rights and reproduction policies, please see our website.
  • Not all photographs are dated. This can be frustrating; sometimes detective work can help you (what vintage are the cars? how old does that famous person look? etc.).
  • When using a photograph for research, consider: what was just beyond the frame of this photo? who took the photo and did they have an agenda? are the details informative?