How to Research a Person in the College Archives
Would you like to research a former Swarthmore student, faculty, staff member, or other affiliate of the college? Here are some tips.
First steps to find anyone:
- All the yearbooks ("Halcyon"), student newspaper ("Phoenix"), and alumni magazine ("Bulletin") have been digitized. Try a keyword search of the digital yearbooks, digital student newspapers, or digital alumni magazine.
- The Swarthmore College Archives generally does not collect the personal papers of individual alumni, faculty, or staff members, but we do have a few exceptions. Check the list of Swarthmore alumni collections (RG6/R3), list of Swarthmore faculty and staff collections (RG6/L8), and, if the person was a Quaker, the list of Friends Historical Library family and personal papers (RG5).
Getting started searching for alumni:
- There are individual files on most alumni in collection RG6/R002, created by the alumni office and added to over time by Friends Historical Library. These files typically contain basic information about the student (occupation, residence, etc.), newspaper clippings and obituaries, correspondence with the alumni office (usually about donations), and sometimes other material. Files are restricted until the decease of the alum. You may email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire if a file exists for the person you are interested in.
- Collection RG6/R004, Class Records, contains materials pertinent to each class. Alumni updates, particularly as part of a reunion yearbook, are sometimes present. This collection is available to on-site researchers.
- Some student theses are available digitally. Some additional ones aren't digitized but are stored in the library and listed in the library catalog.
- Try a keyword search of the digitized student publications.
- Access to student transcripts is granted via the Registrar's Office (per federal FERPA regulations).
Getting started searching for past faculty and staff:
There are individual files on some past faculty and staff members in collection RG6/L9, containing newspaper clippings, obituaries, often a CV, and similar materials. Files are restricted until the decease of the faculty or staff member. You may email email@example.com to inquire if a file exists for the person you are interested in.
- Swarthmore College Presidents often kept files on individual faculty members, including correspondence with them and CVs. Check which presidents were in office while your faculty member was at the college, and then check inventories of the presidents' papers (RG6/D) to see if they kept files on your faculty member. Files are restricted until the decease of the faculty member.
- Check the index to photographs of faculty and staff members (SPA/207)
- Search the digitized annual course catalogs. Depending on the time period, you may learn from this what years the person was employed, in what capacity, what classes they taught, and their educational background.
- If you learn from the Phoenix or Halcyon that the person you are researching was involved in any activities, you may wish to see records of student groups (RG6/Q), records of faculty/staff committees (RG6/L003), or check if they appeared in any photographs (SPA/2XX).
- Check the inventory of photoalbums and scrapbooks (RG6/U001) as there may be photos or relevant memorabilia in a classmate's album.
- See more Swarthmore College history resources available online