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Special Collections: Researching Local History

This guide is for anyone interested in researching local history topics using Augustana College Special Collections resources.

What is a Vertical File?

Image of vertical files in drawerVertical files are often an unfamiliar type of information resource to people outside of a library or archives environment.  They are distinct from manuscript collections (a.k.a. archival collections) in that they are not transferred or deposited into Special Collections by someone else; they are created by librarians, archivists, and library/archives staff as a means to assist patrons in locating information on a particular topic quickly. 

A vertical file may contain news clippings, flyers, brochures, programs, newsletters, email announcements, or other types of information, and may be quite extensive or may contain just a few items.  Often, the contents of a vertical have been compiled from many disparate parts of the rest of our collections.  You may encounter published material, unpublished material, photocopies of original items, or original items.  

Each file is given a title that functions as a subject heading, and those subjects may be people, groups, organizations, places, events, or topics that the librarian or archivist felt were likely to be of interest to researchers.

 

How do I know if there's a vertical file for the subject I'm researching?

Searching for vertical files can be very straightforward or very complicated, depending on your research topic.  Often, the most efficient way to identify relevant files is to ask for help from the Special Collections staff.  However, there is a complete list of all of our vertical files available online, and it is searchable if you'd like to explore on your own.  Instructions for how to search are provided at the top of the Google Sheet linked below: