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Frequently Asked Questions


How can I find out what's in the Sophia Smith Collection? Are your holdings described on the Web?

If you visit the SSC, the reference archivist can help you find materials. We also have catalogs, subject guides and finding aids available in-house for browsing.

There are several ways to discover primary source materials on the Sophia Smith Collection's Web site: you can browse the alphabetical lists of collections and the subject guides on our Web site; browse or search our online finding aids (definition); search the Five College Libraries Catalog; or contact the SSC Reference staff and let us help identify sources for your topic (more help with online searching). Most of our open collections are described on the Web, in both the libraries catalog and online finding aids. Others are closed to research, or are awaiting additions to make them more complete. Finding Aids will be posted online when appropriate. Some newer, unprocessed (definition) collections are described at the collection level only and do not include lists of content. When you have identified collections of interest, you may contact the SSC for the contents lists.

To get an idea of the types of materials in the SSC, view the digital collections and online exhibits.

Can I find digital collections on the Web? Why aren't more of your materials digitized?

Individual digitized images and documents from the Sophia Smith Collection are displayed throughout our web site, in Web exhibits and oral history projects, and digitized SSC materials on other sites. See Digital Collections.

You are welcome to download items from our Web site as long as it is for one time use only and they will not be reproduced, mounted on a Web site, or published in any public venue outside the classroom. Although we own the original images, we do not own copyright for most of the materials on our site, so if you do plan to use the images again, or publish them in any way, you must obtain our permission as well as the permission of any copyright owners. Please be sure to give credit for the images to the Sophia Smith Collection as well as the photographer (if known). For more information, see Terms of use. If you wish to order higher resolution images you can order digital scans.

The SSC staff are responsible for preserving and making available for research over 685 collections (occupying 10,377 linear feet). It is very time-consuming and expensive to scan, catalog, and store digital objects and we have limited staff and resources. Our core activities consist of preserving, arranging, and describing the materials so they can be used, and providing reference services. We are continually digitizing materials as researchers request reproductions and for special projects such as online exhibitions. These items are cataloged in our in-house image database and we hope eventually to make more of them available online.

How do I find images? Do you have images on the Web?

The Sophia Smith Collection has a growing collection of digitized images relating to women's history dating from the early nineteenth century to the present. But these digitized images are only a fraction of the tens of thousands of original photographs, slides, negatives, postcards, scrapbooks, and artwork, as well as images in print sources such as women's periodicals and ephemera (broadsides, fliers, pamphlets, posters) that are preserved within the Sophia Smith Collection. Major subject areas include women's activism in suffrage movements, women's liberation, civil rights, peace, and reproductive rights movements, plus women in international work, the arts and professions, U.S. social history and family life.

If possible, visit the SSC so you can browse the collections for images. There is also a searchable image database available to researchers in the SSC. Reference archivists can suggest images relating to specific topics if you are unable to visit.

To get an idea of the types of images in the SSC, view the online exhibits, as well as postcard and bookmark offerings.

For information on printing or downloading these images see Terms of Use; and to order high resolution reproductions see Duplication Services. Click on thumbnail images for enlargement and full caption.

How do I contact someone who can help answer a question?

See our Contact Information page.

Will SSC staff do research for me if I can't come there?

Yes. Our standard policy is to provide up to one hour of research free of charge. If answering your question requires more time, then we will charge a research fee of $20 per hour or you may wish to arrange to visit the SSC or hire a research assistant to come here. We may be able to recommend local undergraduate or graduate students for you to hire as research assistants.

I need to use primary sources for my paper. Where do I start?

Start with secondary source readings (books and articles) to get a good overview of your topic. You can browse the SSC Web site to get an idea of whether we have primary sources related to your topic. You can start with the Subject Guides which suggest specific materials, or browse the alphabetical lists of collections. Both provide links to more detailed finding aids. If possible, visit the SSC and talk to a reference archivist who can help you navigate our finding aids. If you are unable to visit you can email a reference request.

For more information of finding and using primary sources, see the 5 College Archives Research Guide.

I need to pick a topic for my paper. What's the best way to start?

Start with secondary source readings (books and articles) to get an overview of the subject, then visit the SSC and talk to a reference archivist. She can help you focus your topic and find relevant primary sources. If you wish, you can first browse the SSC Web site to see what the major subject areas are. Start with the Subject Guides (note: More subject guides are available in the SSC than are on the Web site). If you are unable to visit you can email a reference request.

Can you help me with my History Day project?

We often receive requests from high school students working on History Day projects and we usually suggest that they try to choose topics with locally available sources so they can visit the archives and view primary sources in person, as it is much more gratifying than receiving photocopies in the mail. You may want to visit your local library or historical society where the staff can help you focus your topic to match available primary sources. For more information of finding and using primary sources, see the 5 College Archives Research Guide

If you are still interested in the Sophia Smith Collection and are unable to visit us, we can send you selected photocopies on your topic (see above for information on searching our finding aids). To find primary sources online, you can browse our Digital Collections and Women's history internet resources.

For more information of finding and using primary sources, see the 5 College Archives Research Guide.

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 © 2005 Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063 Page last updated on Monday, 01 April 2013