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Primary Sources in Archives & Special Collections: Archival Materials at Purdue

Identifying and locating primary sources in the Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center.

Archival Materials

Archival Materials at Purdue


Archon: Archon is a online database for locating archival collections on specific individuals, organizations and university records at Purdue. It contains finding aids, inventories, and descriptions of archival collections.

e-Archives:  e-Archives is an online database that contains digital versions of photographs, manuscript collections, videos, and oral histories located in the Purdue Archives and Special Collections.  Notable collections in e-Archives include a full run of the Debris yearbooks, the Board of Trustees Minutes, the George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers, and many other materials.


Purdue Alumni Directories:  The alumni directories contain information on when a particular student graduated, their area of study, their address, and their occupation and place of employment after graduating.  Coverage is from 1987-2008, however the directories prior to 1969 are much more detailed than the more current ones.

Debris:  The Debris yearbook is useful because it is heavily illustrated with photographs and contains information about student life, student organizations, campus activities, and profiles of graduating seniors. Coverage available from 1889 until 2008.

Vertical Files:  Vertical files contain clippings from the Purdue Exponent and Lafayette Journal and Courier and occasionally other Purdue publications.  They are organized by subject and span from 1950 to the early 2000s.  They are a useful resource if you are trying to find background information on someone or something.

Publications Index:  The Publications Index contains references to Purdue publications such as the Exponent, Debris yearbook, and the Alumnus alumni magazine from 1920 until 1970.  It is useful in locating background information on an individual affiliated with Purdue or an event, and predates the Vertical Files.

Purdue Course Catalogs:  Early Purdue course catalogs (prior to circa 1940) contain a surprising amount of information, including listings of students and faculty, information on campus buildings, facts pertaining to university history and more.

Purdue Annual Reports: Annual reports are a good source of information on what happened at Purdue during a specific year.  The Board of Trustees minutes are useful for this type of information as well.


Faculty Papers

The university archives is responsible for collecting the personal papers of prominent Purdue University faculty and staff. These materials are a rich source for historical research and include items such as biographical information, professional and personal correspondence, teaching materials, research materials, drafts and manuscripts of books and articles, publications, and photographs.  Examples of prominent collections of faculty papers include:

          Cornell A. Bell papers
          Frank and Lillian Gilbreth papers
          George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart papers

Alumni Papers

Alumni papers include items such as scrapbooks, photo albums, Purdue clothing, correspondence, artifacts, and materials specific to the careers and accomplishments of those who attended Purdue.  These materials are useful for informing others about what student life was like at Purdue during a particular time period. Examples of alumni papers include:

          Neil Armstrong papers
          Susan Bulkeley Butler papers
          Orville Redenbacher papers

Organizational Records

The university archives collects materials pertaining to activities of campus organizations, including both student groups and official university organizations.  Such collections include: 

          Collection of Sigma Chi Fraternity Court Case materials, 1879-2000
          Purdue University Army Reserve Officers Training Corps
          The Purdue Women’s Club records

Departmental Records

Each department at the university generates records that document the activities of the university, and it is part the university archives’ mission to collect and preserve them.  Such materials are instrumental in tracing the history of the university and of prominent individuals on campus. Examples of records currently housed in the archives include:

          Department of Agronomy records
          College of Agriculture records
          College of Education records

Administrative Records

Administrative records document the actions and reasons of decision making bodies on campus.  Examples of administrative records include:

          Board of Trustees Minutes   
          Edward C. Elliott papers
          John Purdue papers