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Community Organizations - Archives Dept.: Researching Community Organizations in the Archives Department

This guide provides recommendations for using the Archives Department to study local community organizations and activism. We recommend search paths, search tools, and collections to start your research.


Suggested Collections

You can study the history of numerous Milwaukee-area community organizations in the Archives. Those listed below are citizen-based, activist organizations based on a neighborhood or geographic locale. For other types of community organizations, such as those centered around a social cause (e.g. Hunger Task Force) or a group identity (e.g. Gay Peoples Union), search Search@UW (see center box) or ask an archivist.

How To Use This Guide

Search@UWKeyword search for archival holdings at UWM (see Search@UW tab below for details)

Search Finding AidsKeyword search for archives collections with finding aids - which include content lists and background information.  NOTE: not all collections have a finding aid, so don't discount Search@UW!

Suggested CollectionsPrimary sources for some community organizations in the Milwaukee-area to get you started.  Collection names link to the finding aids when available.


Search the UW system library catalog to locate archival and manuscript collections that will contain primary sources. You can search by keyword/s in the box provided below. This search box pulls up results from the UWM Archives Department, the UWM Special Collections, and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Note that these results will include catalog records for books that we hold here in the Archives, but most of the results will describe archival or manuscript collections, which include documents, reports, photographs, et al.

Here are three examples of simple keyword searches.  Note that the boolean operator and is not necessary between keywords.

1. World War I Milwaukee
2. Communism Wisconsin
3. Civil Rights African Americans Milwaukee

If your search doesn't produce relevant results, try again with different keywords, or contact us for help.

A general search hint: when reading any catalog record, follow the links found at "Subjects" to locate other material in the UWM Libraries on that same subject.

We write finding aids, or guides, for most of our collections. These guides explain the creator, contents and dates of the collection. This information is important to you when deciding if something is useful to your research. A finding aid also provides the information you will need to request and use a collection when you visit the Archives Dept.
All of our finding aids are included in Archival Resources in Wisconsin, a database of over 4,000 finding aids of collections held in seventeen repositories statewide.
Search our finding aids by using the search boxes below. Be sure to select an operator (and, or or not) as appropriate, and then click on "Search." Then explore the links in the grey band that appears with each result. Note: this search is limited to our holdings at the Archives Department, UWM Libraries, which is also known as the Milwaukee Area Research Center.


Use Archivegrid to find archives and collections in your geographic area.

The Library of Congress has a wealth of digital collections, which you can search right from their homepage.  

If you're not sure where to start, you can also browse their collections by topic.

Subject Guide