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A Guide to the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections

How to Request Archival Material

Requesting archival material by email

Please contact us ahead of your visit by submitting a form at the following link: Archives Research Collections Materials Request Form.

  • You may request any combination of up to 12 items. These may be either archival boxes, books, or any combination thereof. Please note that larger archival boxes (banker's boxes and oversize items) may count as two items. For multi-volume published works, each volume counts as a separate item.

For archives, you must include the archives title and box number(s). For books, include author, title, and call number(s). Examples:

  • Farley Mowat archives, boxes 7, 9, and 22
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, PR 6045 .O72 M7 1925


If you don’t know exactly what you want to see, please email for assistance.



  • Archival material is not always available on-site. It may take a few days for the archives to get the material prepared for you. That is why it is always a good idea to email a few days in advance of your visit.
  • Archival material may be subject to access restrictions. Be aware of any possible access restrictions which would be listed in the archival finding aid. If the material you are interested in researching is restricted, you will not be able to look at it. 
  • After you have submitted your request, boxes will be kept 'on hold' for one week. 

In being granted permission to access the archive(s) listed above and to make copies from the archive(s), you are agreeing to the following terms:

  • the said permission does not include permission to publish the contents of the archive or any excerpt therefrom at any time.
  • McMaster University Library – unless otherwise explicitly stated in writing – makes no representation that it is the owner of the common law copyright in the items accessed or copied.
  • the researcher assumes responsibility for obtaining permission(s) from the copyright owner if they have the intention to publish the archive or excerpts therefrom in any form.

Requesting digital copies

In some cases, McMaster can provide digital copies of archival material. When requesting digital copies of archival material, please fill out the form found at the following link: Copy Request Form.

Directory of Researchers for Hire

This directory lists current graduate students at McMaster University who are interested in paid opportunities to work with our collections on behalf of researchers who are unable to visit our location in person.

The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections maintains this directory as a courtesy to facilitate connections between students and external researchers. The students listed in this directory are not employees of the University Library and must be consulted personally about their fees and services. We cannot participate in any way in these negotiations.


Archival Databases

Image of books and the text reads Archives Database

The primary database for archival and manuscript material at the William Ready Division is our Archives Database (AtoM)

The database will connect you to hundreds of finding aids, which list the archival and manuscript material in our holdings. For review on reading finding aids, check out the 'How to Read a Finding Aid' page on the Guide to Archival Research Lib Guide




There are three main tools for navigating the Archives Database:

1. The search bar. 

2. Subject headings. These subjects correspond to our major collecting areas, but please note that they do not cover everything!

3. Site Search. This tool indexes our archival and manuscript descriptions (which give broad information about an item, archive, or collection) and authority records (which give information about the creators of our holdings). This allows you to search our whole website — including our finding aids, which list the contents of our archives by box and file.


Web page of Three blue arrows and text boxes which read 1. Search Bar, 2. Subject Headings, 3. Site Search

Web page of Pierre Berton finding aid. Blue arrows with text boxes which read Select the finding aids and find file you are interested in

Bertrand Russell Archives and photo of man

The Bertrand Russell Archives has several access points. The starting point for any research related to Russell should begin at the home page for the Russell Archives

The Russell Archives is described in the Archival Database (AtoM), which provides a complete overview of all the material in the archive. This is a good place to start if you want to get an idea of the archive as a whole.

The Bertrand Russell Archives Catalogue Entry and Research System, or BRACERS, is an online database of over 132,000 correspondence records, including much rich annotation and quotations from Bertrand Russell's letters. For an explanation of some of the abbreviations used in BRACERS, check out this link

These are additional useful links related to the Bertrand Russell Archives: 


How to navigate BRACERS

Using the search bar on the The Bertrand Russell Archives Catalogue Entry and Research System, find the record(s) that interest you and then locate their Box and Document Numbers. 

In your email to, list the Record Number, Box Number, and Document Numbers for the material you would like to access. For example, 

Hello Russell Archives Staff, 
My name is Jane Smith and I am interested in looking at the following document:
-Record 131245, Box 6.30, Document .081201. Letter from Bertrand Russell to Arthur Russell. 

Thank you.


Web Page. Text reads Search Bracers with blue arrow and text reads Search Bar

Web page of Blue arrows with text which reads find the record number (131245), find the box number (6.30), and find the document number (.081201)

Anglican Diocese of Niagara and photo of Church

In 1975 McMaster University reached an agreement with the Anglican Diocese of Niagara to collect, describe and preserve the records of the churches in the diocese as well as the non-active diocesan records. Since that time the records of almost all of the churches in the diocese have been deposited at McMaster, amounting to more than 100 parishes. The Diocese covers approximately 3,320 square miles in the province of Ontario. The most northerly towns are Harriston and Mount Forest; the western boundary is Nanticoke; the eastern perimeter is marked by Oakville and the Diocese extends southwards to Fort Erie. The records are on deposit only and remain the property of the Anglican Church.


The records of the churches are organized by city and then by church. Each church entry includes history of the church and a listing of the records we hold: Records of the Diocese and Individual Churches

These are additional useful links related to the Anglican Diocese of Niagara archives:



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