Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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 emailing us at In your email remember to include the following: 

  • A short introduction of yourself
  • A brief description of your project (~1 sentence)
  • When you plan on visiting the archives
  • But most importantly, please include the following information about the material you are requesting:
    • The fonds/collection name
    • The box numbers


Subject: Farley Mowat fonds
Dear Archives Staff, 
My name is Jane Smith and I am a second -year Life Sciences student at McMaster. I am researching for a paper on Farley Mowat's environmental activism and would like to look at the following boxes:
- Farley Mowat fonds, Boxes 108 and 111. 

I am planning on visiting this Friday. 

Thank you.

When ordering boxes of material, keep the following things in mind: 

  • 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. 
  • You will be allowed to look at only one box of material at a time. Keep that in mind when planning how long you will need for your visit.
  • After you have submitted your request, boxes will be kept 'on hold' for one week. 

Requesting archival material in person

It is not necessary to email ahead of time (although it is recommended), but if you are requesting material at our reference desk, keep in mind that it might not be available right away.

Requesting digital copies

You may find archival material that you are interested in, but are unable to visit due to time and budget constraints. 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.

Note: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, copying services have been suspended to ensure the safety of McMaster Library staff. Please consult the COVID-19 page for information about McMaster Library services during COVID-19.

Things to keep in mind when ordering digital copies:

  • There will be a fee. Pay attention to the size of the request and consider your budget:
    • PDFs : $0.30 per page; plus $14 per hour for orders over 50 pages)

    • Photocopies : $0.30 per page; plus $14 per hour for orders over 50 pages

    • High Resolution Scans : $15 per image; oversize material, $40 per image

    • Rare Book Copy on Demand : $40 per volume

  • There may be copyright restrictions. The archives may refuse your copy request if copying violates a copyright or other restriction.
  • You will have to sign a copy agreement which states that the copy is being made for your own research and will not be duplicated or transferred to others.
  • Digital scans may not be possible in cases where the material is fragile and if the process of scanning will threaten its integrity. The staff will assess the condition of the item prior to scanning.  

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:



Ask Chat is Offline - Send an Email