User’s guide to the Guide
Several technical matters are explained here to make it easier for the researcher to use this Guide.
Almost a decade before the Museum opened, the USHMM Archives staff determined the current structure of the record group (RG) system, based on accepted archival theory and practice, and their own experience as archivists and historians. More recently, the Archives made an additional decision to follow the principle of respecting the provenance of the records, which in this case means that records are registered and cataloged according to the source of acquisition, not the location of creation.
For example, if the Museum obtained from Yad Vashem a collection of records that that Israeli institution reproduced in the Lithuanian State Archives, the collection would be listed under RG-68 Israel, rather than RG-26 Lithuania. However, the records are thoroughly cross-referenced in the entries and in the index to the Guide. In the searchable web site version of the Guide, the electronic retrieval system will take the researcher to the appropriate entries regardless of the RG in which it is located.
This latter decision regarding provenance is the reason more recently acquired collections may be placed in record groups different from thematically similar collections acquired before the decision was made.
The RG structure itself also follows traditional archival practice. For example, the designator RG-02.0129 indicates the 129th collection in RG-02 (Survivor Testimonies). Few collections have a structure more complicated than this example. For technical reasons, in several instances the first collection number in a RG has not been allocated (e.g., RG-08.001). The designator containing the letter “M” indicates that the collection is on microfilm or on microfiche.
The accession designator initially indicated the year of acquisition, the fact that it was an Archives (A) accession, and the sequential number of the accession in that year (e.g., 1996.A.0349). Recently, all Museum acquisitions have been registered without reference to which sub-unit of the Collections Division received the collection. Thus the notation “A” for the Archives disappears from the accession designators after 1999.
Accession designators are used in the Guide only for those collections for which the Archives has not yet completed the cataloging process, the process that includes the assignment of RG designators. It is possible, but highly unlikely, that that process will place an accession in an RG other than the one in which it appears in this Guide. However, the collection still will be retrievable by accession number and/or title so users of this Guide always will have access to it.
For various technical reasons, numerous collections consisting mainly of textual records are presently housed in the Art and Artifacts Branch of the Collections Division. Many of these collections are of sufficient interest to researchers to be included in the Guide and are described here in a separate section. Because some of these collections are stored off-site, researchers interested in examining them should inform the Reference Archivist before arriving at the Museum.
Where no specific language is noted, the basic language of the collection and finding aid is English. Where no references to a finding aid or restrictions on use are specifically mentioned, there are none.
In the “Restrictions” field, the phrase “fair use only” is sometimes used. Following tradition, as defined in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the Museum defines this phrase as indicating the requirement to limit citations from a document or manuscript to a few sentences in each case. Lengthier citation requires the permission of the author or owner of copyright.
Because new collections are constantly being acquired, and because additions often are made to current collections, it is strongly recommended that researchers search the Archives cataloging data on the Museum’s web site, and that they contact the Reference Archivist before arriving at the Museum.
Suggestions from researchers for improvements to future editions of the Guide will be greatly appreciated.