CSWR Resource Guide

A guide to the resources housed at the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections

At the CSWR

As I wrote on the introduction to archival research page, each archives is different. There are broad similarities, but archives nonetheless vary in how they organize and provide access to materials. In the tabs below you'll find some specific information, tips, and tricks about using the materials at the CSWR that build on the material on the CSWR Resources In Depth pages. Some of this information includes explanations of how collections are organized and arranged, with examples from the CSWR collections. Other tabs below describe some of the smaller or less frequently requested types of materials that the CSWR houses, including Music and Audio/Visual collections. 

Hopefully this guide has proven useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with CSWR staff at cswrref@unm.edu or (505) 277-6451.

Examples, Tips, and Miscellaneous

This tab will explain in detail how manuscript collections are arranged, using material in the CSWR collections as examples. For general information about using the New Mexico Archives Online (which includes finding aids for the MSS collections), consult the New Mexico Archives Online page collected under CSWR Resources in Depth on the sidebar. 

According to the Society of American Archivists' Dictionary of Archives Terminology, a "manuscript collection" refers to "a collection of personal or family papers." The entry goes into a bit more detail in a note: 

Although manuscript literally means handwritten, 'manuscript collection' is often used to include collections of mixed media in which unpublished materials predominate. They may also include typescripts, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, news clippings, and printed works.

The important thing to remember about a manuscript collection is that it will mostly, or even exclusively, consist of unpublished material. This might include personal or business correspondence not intended for public view, drafts of works that were later published, and other items (including, in some cases, items that are not paper documents). The Archives and Libraries page goes into more depth about this, but the fact that archival collections consist of unpublished material is one of the major distinguishing factors between archival collections and library collections. 

The CSWR houses over 1000 manuscript collections covering a wide variety of topics. Despite their broad range, however, materials in manuscript collections are arranged in a consistent and (usually) straightforward way from the broad collection identifier and title to narrow folders and, in some cases, individual objects:

  • Collection
    • Series 
      • Sub-series (sometimes)
        • File
          • Item (rarely)

Note that some collections are not arranged according to series and sub-series. For example, one of the newest collections in the CSWR, the Zimmerman Library, Kenneth Adams Paintings - Opposition Material (MSS-1067-BC), is not arranged according to series. Rather, materials are organized into files and the folder labels are provided in the finding aid:


Example of a collection with series and sub-series

While some of the CSWR's collections are not arranged according to series or sub-series, many are. For example, the John Gaw Meem Job Files (MSS-790-BC) collection starts with the collection title and is then broken down into series, sub-series, and folders. 


Separation into series helps the researcher by providing a road map of the general contents of the collection. Given that the collection above consists of 64 boxes, a road map will save considerable time. However, these series still represent pretty broad distinctions - think a map that only shows interstate highways. A highway-level map is useful, but not much help once you're off the highway and looking for where to turn to get to your friend's house. To further narrow down the collection, some manuscript collections are also arranged by sub-series:



In theory, a sub-series within a series in a collection could itself be further divided into sub-sub-series (and sub-sub-sub-series, ad nauseam), but this is unusual except for very large collections. Within the series or subseries level, the next level of organization consists of the folder:



In the case of this collection, folders house materials pertaining to specific jobs, with those jobs arranged alphabetically. To see which box and folder houses the materials for a particular job, click on that job:



Unprocessed MSS Collections

The CSWR continues to accept new collections, and these collections take time and resources to process. In some cases unprocessed collections are made available to researchers, sometimes with a preliminary description of their contents, with the caveat that since the collection has not been fully processed and described, materials may be much more difficult to find. 

For example, the New Mexico First Collection (MSS-2022-11-23) remains unprocessed as of early 2023. (Note that the identifier is not in line with typical MSS identifiers!) 



Given the extent of the collection, it will likely take archivists and archival staff some time to fully process and describe the materials contained in it. Making the collection available (after consulting with CSWR staff) before it has been completely processed helps to give researchers access to materials as quickly as possible, even if the collection will be more difficult to use. 

This tab will go into detail about how the CSWR's pictorial (PICT) collections are arranged, using examples from the collections. For general information about using the New Mexico Archives Online (which includes finding aids for the PICT collections), consult the New Mexico Archives Online page collected under CSWR Resources in Depth on the sidebar. For more extensive information on the CSWR's pictorial collections, take a look at Photographs and Images, a guide created by Cindy Abel Morris, the CSWR's Pictorial Archivist.

Pictorial collections (PICT) at the CSWR collect, you guessed, photographic and other pictorial material. These collections are organized along lines similar to the CSWR's manuscript (MSS) collections, but their identifiers and storage locations are different. 

For example, the Margaret Randall Photograph Collection (PICT-000-663) is organized into series:


These series are further parsed into sub-series. In the case of this collection, Randall herself helped to organize the materials and arrange them into series and sub-series:


Note that, in some cases, the organization of items within series or subseries in a collection will differ depending on the nature of the material in that series. Generally, however, archivists will try to organize material in different series either along the same principle (alphabetical or chronological), or following a system that makes sense while respecting the original order of the materials. Margaret Randall's family is a favorite photographic subject of hers, and the photos of family and other people in the collection are arranged alphabetically within their series or sub-series. Likewise, the materials organized in the Places, 1970s-2005 series are arranged into sub-series alphabetically, with material in each sub-series also alphabetized:


Pictorial collections occasionally differ somewhat from manuscript collections in the level of detail to which the items are described. Most manuscript collection descriptions stop at the level of the folder, with no specific information on that folder's contents. That is, a folder labeled "financial documents, 2000" will contain financial documents from the year 2000, but the finding aid will not indicate what, specifically, those financial documents consist of (tax forms, receipts, invoices, etc.) Pictorial collections like the one above differ somewhat from manuscript collections in that, at least in the case of the Margaret Randall collection, some of the folders are labeled such that researchers know more or less exactly what to find in each one (photos of Randall's daughter Ana Cohen, Daisy Zamora, Allen Ginsburg, Quntana Roo, etc.). But this level of detailed description is not systematically the case. For example, the Sonora News Company Mexico Stereographs Collection (PICT-996-012) consists of stereographs portraying a variety of urban and rural areas in early 20th-century Mexico, but the finding aid is not divided into series for urban v. rural scenes, churches, etc. 

Unprocessed Pictorial Collections

As is the case with manuscript collections, the CSWR continues to add pictorial collections to its holdings. While many of these collections consist of digital images, this is not always the case. (And even in the case of digital images, someone needs to organize and describe them!)

Like manuscript collections, pictorial collections take time and resources to fully process and describe. But in the interests of making materials available to researchers as soon as possible, as-of-yet unprocessed collections are made available for research, again, with the caveat that finding specific items will be difficult. 

For example, the Jane Bernard and Polly P. Brown Route 66 Pictorial Collections (PICT-2014-005) remains unprocessed, but has nonetheless been preliminarily described:


Given the extent of the collection (nearly 8000 items between material pertaining to Jane Bernard and Polly Brown), the collection will take some time to fully process, arrange, and describe. 


The CSWR has a large collection of books and periodicals that are stored separately from the main stacks of Zimmerman library. These books are only for use in the Anderson Reading Room

Books that belong in the CSWR storage space will bear call numbers that read, 




If a book or volume has "ARR" or "Coronado" on the sticker with its call number, that means it lives on one of the shelves in the Anderson Reading Room. 

Important note! In some cases the CSWR houses titles that are also available in the Zimmerman collection. 

For example, there are copies of William E. Davis's Miracle on the mesa: a history of the University of New Mexico, 1889-2003 available in the Zimmerman Library collection as well as in the CSWR's book collection. In fact, the CSWR holds four copies of this book, one of which is stored in the Anderson Reading Room, one in the CSWR's book stacks, and two in the UNM archives. The two copies in the Zimmerman collection are both shelved on the third floor.

Since these items consist of multiple copies of the same book, they all bear the same call number: LD3781.N52 D38 2006. The CSWR copies, however, include "ZIM CSWR" before the call number. The Anderson Reading Room copy includes "ARR" or "CORONADO" before the call number. 

But why does this matter?

Since the Anderson Reading Room operates with more limited hours than Zimmerman library and does not allow patrons to check out books, a patron interested in reading this book but unable to do so in the reading room during its hours of operation could consult or check out one of the Zimmerman copies. 


The CSWR houses a small number of collections of music, songs, and other audio material assigned identifiers that begin with MU. These are housed separately from collections assigned PICT or MSS identifiers. New collections are not assigned this identifier; now, they are assigned MSS identifiers. Information about these collections, including scope and content, language, access restrictions, and extent, are available through New Mexico Archives Online in each collection's finding aid. 

To request a MU collection, researchers should complete the same paging form as that used to request MSS, PICT, or UNMA collections. Note that many of these collections consist of physical media (CDs and DVDs). There are computers with disc drives available in the Anderson Reading Room, but patrons interested in consulting Music collections should consider bringing a USB DVD drive to use. 

Some examples of MU collections:



In addition to manuscript, pictorial, architectural, and printed materials, the CSWR also houses audiovisual media, including films and television programs. When visual or film materials are included in a manuscript collection, they are arranged within that collection's organization and can be found by looking through the finding aid for that collection. However, some of the CSWR's visual materials are not housed as part of MSS collections, but rather assigned call numbers and stored separately from the manuscript and pictorial collections. 


For example: 

The CSWR houses a copy of Navajo code talkers: a film by Tom McCarthypublished on VHS in 1986 by Onewest Media. A DVD copy of the film is available to be viewed in the Anderson Reading Room under the call number: D810 C88 N38 1990 c.1. The original VHS bears the same call number, but is not available for patrons to use. Some audiovisual material has been made available on New Mexico Digital Collections, or may be available from an archivist. 


Important note! 

In many cases these materials consist of original VHS tapes or DVDs, often with DVD copies for patron use. DVD copies of material originally published on VHS are made available to patrons to avoid damage to the original tapes due to frequent use. There are computers for patron use in the Anderson Reading Room with DVD drives, but patrons are encouraged to bring their own DVD drive if they know they will need to consult materials in that format. 


Many of the CSWR's collections include maps. In these cases the maps are arranged as part of their broader collection and described in the collection's finding aid. If the maps are oversized, they will still be arranged as part of their relevant collection, but the finding aid will indicate the oversize storage location. 

However, the CSWR also houses maps that are not part of manuscript or pictorial collections. These materials are assigned call numbers and stored in a dedicated map case. 

For example: 

Diné baahani̕go binaaltsoos bike̕hgo háhidizídí = historical calendar of the Navajo People : 1968 / published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of June 1, 1868 is available at the call number: E99.N3 D448 1968b c.1

To request these materials patrons should use the paging slip for books and microfilm (that is, for other items that also have call numbers). 

The Fray Angélico Chávez History Library's WPA New Mexico Collection consists of accounts about daily life in New Mexico primarily from Hispanic and Anglo New Mexicans collected by members of the WPA's Federal Writer's Project in the 1930s. The files are held at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library in Santa Fe, but photocopies of the files are available at the CSWR. The CSWR also houses microfilm versions of these materials, available at call number: F801 .W73 1994 c.1

To search the WPA files, patrons should consult the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library's finding aid

To request paper copies of the WPA files at the CSWR, patrons should use the paging form for MSS, SWA, and PICT collections. 

To request microfilm reels of the WPA files, patrons should use the paging form for books/microfilm and include the call number above as well as the desired reels. 

Collections of architectural drawings at the CSWR are assigned the "SWA" identifier. Many of these collections are housed in the John Gaw Meem archives in a subbasement of the Zimmerman library, where they are filed in specialized cabinets with shallow, wide drawers under the care of the architectural archivist.

Unlike manuscript collections, architectural materials are not assigned an MSS identifier followed by a number and BC or SC. Nor are they assigned a PICT identifier followed by the year accessioned and a number in sequence. Rather, drawings, plans, and other architectural documents are assigned the SWA identifier followed by the name of the originating individual, company, or organization (sometimes truncated or made into an acronym), and the word "drawings." 

For example, the John Gaw Meem Drawings and Plans are assigned the identifier:

SWA JGM Drawings CSWR Microfilm NA737 M438 J64

The first three components tell archival staff where to go to find the original drawings and plans, while the second part of this identifier, CSWR Microfilm NA737 M438 J64, gives the location of microfilm versions of these drawings. 

In most cases architectural collection identifiers will only consist of "SWA" a name or acronym, and "drawings." (A few of these collections have identifiers that end in "student drawings" or "scans," but the majority end with "drawings." Even these irregular identifiers start with SWA, etc.)

Architectural collections also differ from manuscript (MSS) collections in that they are not stored in boxes, but rather in drawers within cabinets called "stacks." Materials documenting specific jobs are organized into one or more folders in these drawers. When requesting architectural drawings, patrons should include the identifier (SWA-NAME-DRAWINGS) as well as the name of the job and the stack/folder number in which materials pertaining to that job are stored. The more information on the paging slip, the easier architectural materials are for archives staff to find and pull!

For example, if I wanted to pull John Gaw Meem's plans for the Zimmerman library, I would include the following information on the paging form:

- Collection identifier: SWA JGM Drawings CSWR Microfilm NA737 M438 J64 

- Job name: University of New Mexico Library, Albuquerque, NM, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1948, 1949, 1952

- File location: Stack:01, Drawer: 10

- Job Number: 215 215-B-2-B-3 (Note that not all of the CSWR's architectural collections include job numbers.)


While some of the information above is not strictly necessary for finding these specific materials, it's a good idea to include all of the available information when completing a paging request. This helps archives staff find materials more easily and cuts down on time waiting in the reading room! 

An important note! 

In some cases materials acquired by the CSWR consist of large amounts of different kinds of objects. For example, an architect's, artist's or photographer's full collection of material might include not only drawings, paintings, or photos, but also personal and business correspondence, diaries or journals, and other objects. In cases like this archivists might create two or more separate repositories for different parts of the mass of material. This way materials that require specific care or storage, like photographs or oversized architectural drawings, can better be preserved. Creating distinct collections also helps researchers by narrowing down elements of the entire mass of material ahead of time.

For example, there are at least four collections directly associated with John Gaw Meem:

  1. John Gaw Meem Job Files - MSS-790-BC
  2. John Gaw Meem Drawings and Plans - SWA JGM Drawings CSWR Microfilm NA737 M438 J64
  3. John Gaw Meem Papers - MSS-675-BC
  4. John Gaw Meem Collection of Non-Job-Specific Photos - PICT-000675NJS

Each of these collections includes material produced by John Gaw Meem over the course of his lifetime. The Job Files collection contains material pertaining to specific jobs undertaken by Meem. The drawings and plans include drawings and plans. The Papers collection (MSS-675-BC) includes personal and professional correspondence, awards, accounting files, etc., and the Non-Job-Specific photos collects photos Meem took of buildings not of his design. Note that each of these collections (aside from the two MSS collections) is stored in a separate place from the others and will require a separate paging request form to pull. 



The CSWR houses quite a number of reels of microfilm representing different collections. In some cases, collections exist in their original formats but have been migrated to microfilm to make them more easily available for researchers.

For information on where the microfilm reels are housed, how they are organized, and how patrons should request them, see below. 



Quick Guide to Microfilm locations:

Microfilm identification (MSS or call number): Location:

MSS identifier

(for example, MSS-884-BC, reel 17)

Center for Southwest Research Microfilm storage in the CSWR's super-secret storage space!

(No microfilm with an MSS identifier will be stored on the Zimmerman basement level!)

Call number

(for example, AN2 S396,  v. 4, no. 19)

Zimmerman Microfilm stored on the basement level of Zimmerman library. 


CSWR Microfilm storage. The only way to know for sure where a microfilm reel with a call number is located is to search for that call number in the library catalog and look for the Location section of the results. Hence the pro-tip below...


Microfilm top pro-tip!

If a microfilm reel has a call number, it will either be housed in the Zimmerman Microfilm section on the basement level, or it might be housed in the CSWR's microfilm storage. To check the location, search for the call number in the library catalog and look at the "Location" section of the results. 

Some other microfilm tips and tricks:

Most of the CSWR collections that include microfilm reels house those reels together with other archival materials. For example, the 136 reels of microfilm that make up part of the Brown Realty Co. records for New Mexico residential and farm and ranch properties (MSS-884-BC) are housed with CSWR microfilm, not in the basement stacks of Zimmerman Library where newspapers and other publications that have been migrated to microfilm are housed. (Note also that these are filed separately from other microfilm reels housed in the CSWR's storage areas that have call numbers!)

  • Searching for the collection in the library catalog shows that part of MSS-884-BC is microfilm, and lists which reels are available. The library catalog does not include any information about what is on each reel - for that patrons will need to consult the NMAO finding aid for the collection. 


On the other hand, newspapers and periodicals that are available on microfilm and found through searching the library catalog will usually be stored in the Zimmerman Basement level stacks in the microfilm section. Master microfilm reels may also be housed in the CSWR's storage locations, but these reels are not for patron use. 

  • For example, the Santa Fe Seer's is available to patrons on microfilm. A search of the catalog will show the location of the item as well as its call number(s) and the date range available - see below. 

Requesting microfilm materials:

Though not as big a part of library and archival collections as it used to be, microfilm still plays an important role in research because migrating documents to microfilm allows repositories to make large amounts of information available - like decades of a newspaper's print run - without taking up enormous amounts of stack space. Newspapers and periodicals are typically digitized today, but many old periodicals remain available only on microfilm. 

To request microfilm reels, patrons will use one of two request forms, depending on whether the microfilm reel is part of an MSS collection or has a call number associated with it. 

  • MSS identifier: in this case the patron should ask for a manuscript collection request form and indicate that the part of the collection requested consists of one or more microfilm reels. 
  • Call number: in this case the patron should ask for a book request form and write the call number and reel number(s), with as much other information as will fit on the slip. 

Using microfilm materials:

The CSWR has two dedicated microfilm readers that allow patrons to view reels and save images of documents of interest to a flash drive. CSWR Access Desk staff will help patrons set up the microfilm reel on the reader and can help patrons with any questions about using the equipment. 

"Oversize" materials consist of materials that, you guessed it, don't fit where materials of that kind would normally be stored. For example, a large book too tall to fit on a shelf in the normal stacks will be housed along with other oversized books. Likewise posters, folders, or other materials that won't fit in the standard storage space for their type of material will be housed separately. 

Many of the manuscript (MSS) and pictorial (PICT) collections at the CSWR have one or more oversized components associated with them. These will usually be indicated in the finding aid entry for the collection. Oversized materials from MSS or PICT collections will be stored in separate cabinets and filed by MSS or PICT identifier. 

For example, the Sam L. Slick Collection of Latin American and Iberian Posters includes over 10,000 items, predominantly political posters from Latin American and Spain. The majority of the posters are housed in dedicated cabinets, but some particularly large posters are housed in oversized (even bigger) cabinets, separately from the rest of the collection. 

Newspapers and periodicals as well as oversized books - all of which will have call numbers rather than collection identifiers - will be stored separately in the CSWR's Oversize storage space. 

Below are some examples of the different kinds of forms used in the Anderson Reading Room to request materials, along with explanations of which kinds of forms when requesting different materials. 

The basic distinction is this: any materials that are assigned a call number can be requested using a Paging Request form, while any materials (other than vertical files) not assigned a call number can be requested with an Archival Material Request Form. 

Archival Material Request Form

Used to request the following materials:

  • manuscript collections (MSS)
  • pictorial collections (PICT)
  • University Archives (UNMA)
  • music collections (MU)
  • Microfilm reels that are part of manuscript (MSS) collections 
    • NOTE: these microfilm materials will have an MSS identifier, not a call number
  • architectural drawings and plans
    • including materials from the Southwest Archivists collections (SWA) and UNM Facility Planning drawings

NOT used to request these materials:

  • Books, including theses and dissertations
  • Microfilm with call numbers
  • Vertical files


Example request for archival materials:


Patrons should use a separate request form for different collections to avoid confusion and misfiling of materials. Note that for researchers interested in consulting a large number of boxes in a particular collection, archival staff will only pull three or four boxes at a time both to avoid materials being lost or misfiled as well as to save space in the Anderson Reading Room. Important! When using an archival materials request form, patrons should make sure to include the entire collection identifier!

Paging Request Form

Used to request the following materials:

  • Books, including theses and dissertations, in the CSWR's collections
  • Microfilm materials assigned a call number, including some newspapers and periodicals (these may be filed in the Zimmerman Library basement)
  • Oversize materials
    • These include books, periodicals, and other materials larger than a standard shelf that are assigned call numbers

NOT used to request these materials:

  • manuscript collections (MSS)
  • pictorial collections (PICT)
  • University Archives (UNMA)
  • music collections (MU)
  • Microfilm reels that are part of manuscript (MSS) collections 
    • NOTE: these microfilm materials will have an MSS identifier, not a call number
  • architectural drawings and plans
    • including materials from the Southwest Archivists collections (SWA) and UNM Facility Planning drawings


Example paging request form:


Like the archival materials request form, patrons should use a separate paging request form for each item requested. 

Vertical Files request slip

Used to request:

  • CSWR vertical files

NOT used to request:

  • any other materials


Example vertical file request form:


When requesting vertical files, patrons should make sure to list the main headings and sub-headings in their entirety and exactly as they are listed in the vertical file search engine. Unlike the other two forms, patrons can request more than one file on the same slip.