CSWR Resource Guide

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

New Mexico Archives Online (NMAO)

New Mexico Archives Online (NMAO) will likely play a significant role in any archival research conducted at the CSWR. This resource collects materials from repositories across the state, so patrons should make sure to filter their results by repository (in the toolbar on the right side of the screen). 

An important note: patrons can use NMAO to find a wide variety of different kinds of materials at the CSWR that are catalogued and organized using different kinds of identifier (MSS, PICT, SWA, UNMA, etc). These all show up in the NMAO search results, unless filtered out, and may cause confusion. Feel free to ask the archivist on duty in the reading room if the identifiers are confusing. 

NMAO In Depth

From the NMAO homepage, enter search terms. These might consist of names, keywords, locations, etc. 

It can sometimes be helpful to start by searching with broad terms that can then be narrowed down in the next steps. The home screen can also include search filters from the start. Users can filter results by year, and also search for specific words or phrases in different fields: title, identifier, notes, and so on. Clicking on the "+" to the right of the year filters adds another search term field and the ability to use AND, OR, and NOT operators. 

Note: The "Search all record types" box can filter between digital records and collections. "Collections," in this case, refers to physical manuscript, pictorial, architectural, etc. collections. "Digital records" refers to a relatively small number of materials housed on New Mexico Digital Collections that are accessible via NMAO. These can also be found by searching NMDC. 


NMAO's search function will search for items in several repositories statewide. When using the search function, users should make sure to note which repository holds any materials that look like they might be useful. 

In this case, the user searched for a person's name because they were already aware that a collection existed with the name as part of its title. For more general searches, patrons should remember that the toolbar to the right of the search results allows for further filtering by a variety of criteria including subject, media, and so on. 


Note: Readers may have noticed the "Unprocessed" option under the "Type" filter in the example above. An unprocessed collection is one that has been made available to researchers but not yet described beyond the broadest scope of its contents. For example, the Jane Bernard and Polly P. Brown Route 66 Pictorial Collection (PICT-2014-005) is available for research, but remains unprocessed. The finding aid lists the extent of the collection (basically, the amount and kind of stuff that it contains), but nothing beyond that. Researchers will have to look through the boxes to get a sense of their contents. 

The image above shows what users see at the collection level. At this point, if the collection seems like it would be useful, researchers should make a note of the identifier (highlighted above). This is a unique code assigned to each collection in the CSWR that helps to identify and organize the collections. In this case, the identifier is MSS-898-BC. I will explain each part of the identifier below, because it plays an important role in requesting materials. 

MSS, in this case, means "manuscript collection." This part of the identifier distinguishes the collection from pictorial collections, music or video collections, or books in the CSWR's collection. When CSWR staff receive paging requests, this part of the identifier also tells them more or less where the materials are likely to be stored. 

898 here refers to the number assigned to the collection when it was received. Researchers should double-check that this number is correct on paging requests to save time and avoid confusion. 

BC means "big collection," where "big," in this case, means that the collection consists of enough materials to warrant its own box. Like the "MSS" part of the identifier, BC also helps staff know where to look for materials when they are requested. It also hints at the collection's size and whether or not staff will need to use a cart to retrieve it. 

From within a collection, users can scroll through the descriptions of the collections materials in the "Collection organization" sidebar. Users can also search within collections and set date ranges for desired materials. Clicking on one of the links within the "Collection organization" sidebar will tell users which box and folder the materials are housed in within the collection. When requesting materials patrons should list the box or boxes they would like to consult on the paging request sheet. The folder is not necessary on the request sheet, but researchers should make a note of which folder(s) they want to start with. 

One important note:

Unlike libraries and museums where each individual item is assigned a unique identifier and described in the catalogue, this is often not the case with archival collections. As an example, in the collection shown above we see descriptions like "Articles, 1983-2008," "Ephemera, circa 1990s," and "Recipes, undated." This means that the individual articles within the "Articles, 1983-2008" folder are not described in the finding aid, and therefore are not searchable at the level of individual documents. The collection is only described down to the folder level. The only way to determine the specific contents of this folder (for example articles published in which volume/issue of which magazine, etc.) would be to manually go through the materials. Likewise, the example highlighted above shows a box within a box. The index cards are stored inside a smaller box in the bigger one that also stores the rest of the collection. 

The CSWR offers scanning services for a modest amount of documents from specific folders within collections. The fee is $.50/page scanned. For more information, please contact the CSWR. 

A closer view of the search and date limiting functions within a collection. The collection used in this example is not described all the way down to the item level, but other collections may be. In that case, users might have more luck finding relevant material by searching within collections. Since folders will include date metadata, limiting collection results by year can be helpful, especially for a large collection. 

The CSWR houses a wide variety of materials organized into different collections. These collections are likewise categorized in different ways. Researchers should make note of the kind of collection they are viewing or requesting. Refer below to some examples of different collections. 

UNMA Collections

Collections with an identifier that starts with "UNMA" are part of the UNM university archives. These are housed and managed separately from the MSS (manuscript) collections, but are still available to view in the Anderson Reading Room. To only search for UNMA materials, users can filter their searches from the NMAO homepage with the drop-down menu that reads "keyword" by default and searching by the Identifier. 

Small Collections

Most of the CSWR's manuscript collections consist of one or more boxes of material. However, some collections only consist of a single folder, or even a single item. In these cases, the collection is designated a "small collection" and has "SC" at the end of its identifier. 

Important note! When asking for small collections to be pulled, patrons should make sure to include the "SC" part of the identifier on the paging request form. This will help cut down on time waiting for the collection to be retrieved. 

Pictorial Collections

Collections with identifiers that include PICT are part of the CSWR's pictorial collections, managed and organized separately from the manuscript (MSS) or UNM university archives (UNMA) collections. More recently added pictorial collections will have identifiers that include the year they were added to the collection. 


Small Pictorial Collections

Most of the pictorial collections, like the majority of the manuscript collections, consist of one or more individual boxes. Some pictorial collections, however, only consist of one or a few items and are, therefore, classified and shelved as "small collections." 

Unlike the CSWR's manuscript collections, the pictorial collections do not distinguish between big and small collections within the text of the collection identifier. That is, while an archivist or student worker pulling a collection will know that MSS-1234-SC means a small manuscript collection, there is nothing about a pictorial identifier on its own that distinguishes big from small pictorial collections. To determine if a pictorial collection is a small pictorial collection, archivists or staff will have to consult the details in the fields at the bottom of the finding aid.


When visiting the CSWR or using the NMAO finding aid, remember one secret trick: expand all! 

When perusing the finding aid within a collection, make sure to click "Expand All" beneath the collection description and scope and range. The collapsed fields contain boilerplate text as well as credits and information regarding the processing of the collection, but in some cases there is also information of more direct relevance to researchers. This information might include usage or access restrictions (including whether the item is stored in a high security area), whether a pictorial collection is filed with the small collections, whether the material in the collection has been migrated to an easier to use format, etc. 


In the example above, expanding the hidden fields offers some useful information about material separated from the collection in question. In this case the hidden fields don't have anything to say about usage or access restrictions, but such is not always the case. Materials might be filed in a high security area, in which case it will take longer to retrieve them. There might also be publication or usage restrictions for certain collections, especially if the donors of those collections are still living or have included use restrictions as a condition of donating their materials. 

The long and short of it: Expand All!