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Boston College University Archives


Getting Started


Burns Library holds the Boston College University Archives—non-current records having permanent historical, legal, fiscal, or administrative value. University Archives also includes professional and personal papers of some faculty and alumni, as well as publications by and about Boston College. Records created prior to 1969 are generally available for research use; access to more recent records is restricted except by special permission 

Use the left hand navigation to explore the many types of University Archives resources available. We have organized this guide to be helpful for common types of Boston College historical research. The FAQ page answers the questions we consistently receive from researchers. If you don't see an answer for your question(s), or need any help, please contact us.

While many items have been digitized, are full text searchable, and available online, much more is only available via in-person visits to the reading room. If you find something of interest, you are welcome to schedule a visit to the reading room.

Scheduling a Visit

We welcome everyone to use Burns Library collections. We are best prepared to facilitate your visit and ensure materials are available when we know you are coming.

All independent researchers (anyone who does not have a currently active BC Eagle ID number, including alumni) are required to make an appointment prior to visiting. Current Boston College faculty, staff, and students are not required to make an appointment prior to visiting Burns Library.

You can request an appointment during the process of searching for materials in the Library Catalog or the Search Burns Archives Finding Aids. Should you not know what materials you would like to view, but would still like an appointment, please reach out to us via our Contact Us page so we can assist you.

Searching the Library Catalog

Advanced search box

From the advanced search:

  1. Limit the Search Scope to Burns Library

  2. Leave at Any field to search by keywords (remember to try multiple options)

    • or narrow your search to Title, Subject, Author, etc. in the drop down menu

  3. Leave at All Items

    •  or choose what Material Type you want to find via the drop down menu: Books, Archives & Manuscripts, Musical Recordings, etc. 

  4. Leave at Any language, or choose what Language you can read

  5. Limit your results to the Date range you are trying to identify

    • Archival collection dates can be very broad, so very specific/narrow date limits often eliminate results

When you have your result list, you'll find more filters on the right-hand side.



You can sort your results by

  • Relevance

  • Date (newest to oldest)

  • Author (A-Z) 

  • Title (A-Z)


If other libraries have this item, they'll be listed in the search results too.

You can limit by various material types, including but not limited to: 

  • Books

  • Archives & Manuscripts

  • Journals 

  • Musical Recordings, etc. 

The  'Subject' filter helps you get down to more specific and closely related results

You can narrow by a specific author 

You can refine (or refine further) by date 

And you can limit the language(s) of the results, to eliminate materials in a language you don’t read. 

You can always reset your filters, or eliminate a few to work your way through the results.


If you're not getting search results, contact us for help. We can do one-on-one consultations to help you tailor your search and locate special collections materials for your project or research.

Finding Archival Material

Archival description, sometimes referred to as a finding aid, is data about collections that researchers can use to determine if the collection holds information that is significant to their research. Archival description can be used like a table of contents, but also includes contextual information such as collection acquisition and processing, provenance, scope (size, subjects media), and organization and arrangement.

Search Burns Archives is a tool that allows you to search a detailed inventory for one collection, or across detailed descriptions of all archival materials held by Burns Library, allowing researchers to build a relevant request list for research visits or copy requests.

If you know who/what you’re looking for, you can browse and  search within an alphabetical list of all collections held by Burns LIbrary, and the names of all creators, collectors, and donors/vendors associated with these collections.



However, for the most robust search of Burns archival holdings, we recommend searching the entire collection. To do this, 

  • Enter your search terms

    • Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) are accepted, but you can add rows for more complex searching

    •  truncated searching (nurs* for nurse, nursing, nurses) is accepted

  • Leave at Keyword or choose what other fields to search (Creator, Identifier) 

  • Limit your results to the date range (From year / To year) you are seeking

    • Note: Archival collection dates can be very broad, so very specific/narrow date limits often eliminate results

Search results are a combination of Collection Records, Name Entries (people and organizations), Series/Subseries/Files, or Digital Records. You always have the option to refine your search (1), or filter by searching just the results (2), limiting the results by year, or filtering by record type, language, or names.


Collection overviews provide contextual information (dates, scope and contents, creator, language(s), restrictions, biographical notes, extent, etc.) as well as additional information that can prove helpful (arrangement, provenance, availability of digital copies, related collections, separated materials, processing notes).


Collection organization information is displayed at the right, where you can drill into series, subseries, and files.


Selecting any link from Collection Organization gets you to more detailed holding information, where you can add material to your request list

You can also use the Collection Organization Tab to get to the full description



Select the PDF print button for a downloadable and printable version of the finding aid. 


We continue to make incremental improvements and additions to this system, and look forward to your feedback. To let us know what works or what doesn’t, please use the  Send Feedback or Report a Problem link in the bottom right of the  Search Burns Archives page.