Chicago Jazz Archive | Jazz Research and the Archive


What's an Archive?
The Chicago Jazz Archive (CJA) at the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) is a special kind of library collection. The Curator answers questions about Chicago jazz that can't be answered at public or university libraries, questions that require consultation of rare reference sources and unique primary materials held in the CJA collections. Materials don't circulate outside the SCRC, everything here must be used in a supervised reading room.

Visiting researchers consult with the Curator about which collections have materials of interest, then the items are "paged" -- brought out of locked storage -- for use in the SCRC reading room. Because of the rare and fragile nature of many of the items in the Archive's collections, all visitors are asked to read and agree to the SCRC Guidelines for Use before entering the Reading Room. Researchers may be asked to wear gloves, or may need instruction from SCRC staff on the correct handling of archival material.

The Chicago Jazz Archive responds to most reference questions through electronic mail, averaging 450 questions per year. Because of the volume of requests, please be certain the Archive is the right place for your question before getting in touch.

Is the Archive the right place to start my jazz research?

Usually the Archive isn't the right place to start, though it depends on your project and how much background research you've already done. In general, unless you're writing a thesis or book, researching a particular person or band for whom there isn't much published material, or doing research for a film documentary, you need to do some general research and get your topic well defined before you ask for assistance, or the Curator won't be able to help. Take a look at some real questions that have come to the Archive to get an idea of what is and isn't possible.

Projects that should be started at your local library:

If you are: you should start at your local public, college, or university library. The Archive is not a good place to do these assignments and papers because part of their purpose is to familiarize you with the library and teach you to do basic research using books, periodicals, and indexes. The Archive is set up on the assumption that you have already finished that phase of your research training and are ready to work with unique primary materials. The Archive website has jazz research pages specifically intended to assist K-12 students and undergrads with these types of papers and projects.

If your project isn't a student paper or project, and if your local public or state university library can't locate the materials you need, contact the Curator for assistance.

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