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Women's History at RBSC

A guide to women's archival materials at UBC's Rare Books and Special Collections

Key Elements in Citing Special Collections and Archival Materials

Sources need to be cited when used for your research, whether you are quoting directly from the source, paraphrasing it, or reproducing an image in your assignment. Rare books, special collections, and archival materials can be cited according to APA, MLA, Chicago, and any other citation style.

Regardless of which citation style you use, citations of these materials typically include four key elements you should look out for:


The title of the material is available in either its UBC Library catalogue entry or in the AtoM database.

Child care correspondence
May's goodbye party photographs
Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.

Although processing archivists assign titles to files, they do not often give individual items titles due to time constraints. If citing an item that does not have a title, provide a description in square brackets.

[Letter from Juana Pérez to Juan Pérez]

Name of Fonds or Collection

If belonging to an archival or special collection, the title of the fonds or collection to which the file or item belongs. Some, but not all rare books belong to a collection--the UBC Library catalog will list a book's collection in the "Other Contributors/Collections" field if there is one.

Angeli-Dennis collection
Douglas Coupland fonds
Merivale Collection

Call Number or Reference Code

Rare books and some special collections materials will have a call number in the UBC Library catalog.

PR2751 .A1 1623
Merivale .H477 1896

Similar to a library's call number, Rare Books and Special Collections assigns its materials described in its archival database a reference code. This reference code can be found in the Title and Statement of Responsibility Area of a finding aid in the archival database. Rare Books and Special Collections reference codes typically include a collection identifier (e.g., RBSC-ARC-1588) and numbers that identifier a specific box and folder (e.g., RBSC-ARC-1588-25-01).

Reference code for a fonds: RBSC-ARC-1588
Reference code for a file or item: RBSC-ARC-1588-25-01


The name of the materials' holding institution and its geographic location

UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Citations in Different Style Guides

Some citation style guides have specific standards and procedures for rare books, special collections, and archival material, while others provide general guidance. Below covers the general rules for APA, Chicago, and MLA citation styles. The UBC Wiki provides examples of citations for archival material in each style.


The APA Publication Manual does not address these kinds of materials, but the APA Style website provides guidance. The APA Style Guide lists some general principles to keep in mind when citing these materials, and provides several examples organized by media format to adapt for one's own citation use.

Chicago Manual of Style

Most guidelines for citing archival material can be found under the section "Manuscript Collections."


To cite materials, follow the MLA format template. Purdue Owl provides an overview of the MLA citation process and its core elements. If the cited material is part of a collection, the collection name should be included in the Title element. The repository and reference code or call number should be listed as part of the Location element.