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Primary and Archival Sources

This guide provides a brief overview of the UWRF Archives and Area Research Center.

Area Research Center Network

The Area Research Center at UW River Falls is part of a cooperative venture between the Wisconsin Historical Society, 12 University of Wisconsin campus libraries, and the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center. 

The network's 13 Wisconsin Local Area Research Centers (ARCs) serve specific geographic regions around the state. The UWRF ARC covers the counties of; Pierce, St. Croix, Polk and Burnett. ARCs provide access to records created by county offices and other local government units, original manuscript collections of regional interest and other resources for their specific regions.  Each ARC can borrow materials from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the other ARC collections for local use as well.

ARCs are perfect for local history researchers, genealogists, business people, historic preservationists, schoolteachers, faculty and students, or historians who can’t or don’t want to travel far to do research.

Searching for Archival Materials


Anyone can use the Search@UW Catalog to search for Library and Archives material. 

At the right side of the search bar, change the dropdown menu from "Everything" to "Archives and Special Collections". This will limit the search to materials that are only in the Archives and ARC.  

To search, utilize keyword searching, and try different variations for your search words. You can also further filter key terms using the Advanced Search. After your initial search, you can further limit your results using the "Refine My Results" on the left hand side of the page. 


ArCat - ArchivesCatalog for archival material at the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) and within the Area Research Center network (ARC)

  • each ARC is assigned counties that it is responsible for (see map)
    • WHS is itself an ARC for 3 counties
  • WHS also has statewide, national, and even some international collections
  • if you want to limit your search by call number, use the Guided Search
  • just about any collection can be borrowed and be here in 2-3 days
    • come to the UWRF Archives to borrow a collection - do not go through Universal Borrowing/ILL
    • or send us an e-mail at

Searching by call number in addition to a keyword search can filter out a lot of secondary material in the UWRF Catalog. For example:

  • "River Falls Mss" will get you ALL manuscripts collections of a box or more in size in the River Falls ARC
  • "River Falls SC" will get ALL manuscripts collections that are smaller than one box (a Small Collection) but located in the River Falls ARC
  • For government records, the county name and the word "series" will get you everything for that county, e.g. "Pierce Series" will get you everything for Pierce County

If you are using ArCat, these tips work for other ARCs as well. For example, "Dane Series" will get you government records from Dane County, and "Milwaukee Mss" will get you manuscript collections located in the Milwaukee ARC. If you don't want to limit your search in ArCat by location, knowing these numbering conventions will help you know where the material you find in a general search is located.

Special Collections

The UWRF Archives' Special Collections are comprised of local and county histories, printed family histories and genealogies, church and cemetery records, maps and atlases, newspapers from the four counties, oral histories, federal and state census records, local serials, and more.

  • see the tab above for more about newspapers
  • search the UWRF Library book catalog for guides to oral histories that may be useful for your research:
    • Voices from the St. Croix Valley
    • River Falls Mss AW

The book collection also includes rare or unusual publications; older agricultural, Civil War, and Wisconsin and Saint Croix Valley history books; area cookbooks; books authored by local area residents; and books authored by UWRF faculty, staff, or students.

  • some of the rare and unusual books may be useful for your topic - check the UWRF Library book catalog - location will be Archives Closed Stacks
    • an example: search "official history spanish american war" to get the official publication of the U.S. War Records Office (1900)
    • in this case the full locations is: "Archives Closed Stacks Oversized (Room 172, Lower Level)" - don't let the room number throw you off, any location with a room number in the 170s is the University Archives and Area Research Center

We also have photographs from the 4-county area (Burnett, Pierce, Polk, Saint Crox) and from UW-River Falls itself.

  • there is no catalog to search for photographs
  • you need to come in person and look through the photographs, which are filed by subject

Online Exhibits

Some of our materials have been digitized and are available online. You may find useful materials here, or collections you might want to use. Or it may just give you an idea for a paper topic.