The Innovations in Jewish Life Collections team has compiled a list of the frequently asked questions and their answers. Additionally, we offer many resources that may help you if you are interested in learning about archives and how they work.

If you have a question that is not answered here, please use the contact page to get in touch with the IJL Collections team.


What are archives?

Archives are materials that have been created by individuals, groups or organizations during the course of their life or work and deemed to be worth keeping permanently for the purposes of research. These materials may be personal and unplanned—a photograph, a letter to a friend, notes toward a manuscript—or they may be official and widely shared—financial and legal documents, recordings of public speeches, medical files, and electronic records. The term archive can also mean a place where archives are stored.

To learn more about what archivists do, what an archive looks like, and find additional resources, please visit our What are Archives? page. 

How are libraries, museums, and archives different?

While libraries, museums, and archives may seem similar, they do have many fundamental differences. Their missions, how material is collected, and how material is viewed are all vastly different.

"Both libraries and museums are repositories, but libraries are user-driven... The role of the library is to provide access to a vast amount of material through which the user freely roams, making his/her own connections between works. The user chooses which items to look at. Museums, on the other hand, are curator-driven. Historically, they have only provided access to limited holdings, usually exhibited through a particular interpretation or context, as provided by curatorial and educational staff. The museum provides a framework of context and interpretation, and the user can navigate within that smaller body.

Archives tend to be research driven. They are accessible, often by appointment, in non-public spaces."

- "The Museum-Library-Archive" by Howard Besser, NYU

Can I visit the collections?

Yes, individual, group, and class viewings of a collection can be arranged by appointment! Our archivists will work with you to curate a selection of materials from a collection for viewing, per the collection finding aid found on the right-hand side bar of each collection page on our website. Please note that due to processing, research, and preservation efforts, there is no guarantee that specific materials will be available for viewing. 

Individual, group, or class tours of the collections must be requested one week in advance of the requested visit date. Our team will call or email you to schedule and confirm your visit. Please note that if you have not received a response from us, your visit is not confirmed.

Please read "Make an appointment to visit the IJL Collections" in preparation for your visit.

Learn More about Requesting Appointments

Please visit our contact page to request an appointment.

Can I donate to the archives?

The Innovations in Jewish Life Collections accept many types of donations!

Please review our Donating Materials and Giving pages to learn more about the donation process.

What if some of my files are on computer disks or videotape?

The CU Boulder archives accepts donations regardless of format (e.g., published, typescript, audio-visual, and electronic data, such as computer disks and files). For documents in formats requiring any form of machine intervention, such as videotapes and all computer files, consideration will be given to issues of long-term accessibility and preservation. 

Will IJL Collections purchase my materials/items for the archive?

We do not add to our collection through purchasing items. We will happily accept donations that fit both our mission and guidelines. Please review our Donating Materials page and then feel free to contact us about a donation. 

How long before my collection is available to researchers?

It depends. All collections and archives are inventoried soon after they are accessioned into the Archives’ collections so that a basic description of the material is available fairly soon. Depending on the size, complexity, restrictions and conservations issues associated with an archive, processing and cataloging of the material can take anywhere from a few hours to several years. Collections or archives may not be completely open for research until all of the work is completed.

Digitization and Born-Digital Materials

What is your plan for digitization?

We understand that the expectation of easy online access to our holdings continues to grow. Research is no longer relegated to libraries and research rooms, but is being done around-the-clock on computers around the world. To meet this need, we are working toward creating, to the greatest extent possible, an “archives without walls.”

We plan to create digital versions of selected records, including those most requested by researchers. Digitizing materials from our holdings will improve access to those holdings and will help preserve and protect the original materials from excessive handling. To help achieve those goals, we are working with the University of Colorado Digital Asset Management Committee and the Digital Libraries Management Group to establish priorities and complete digitization projects that adhere to professional standards of metadata, preservation, and accessibility.

What is the difference between digitization and scanning?

"Scanning is the process of a creating raster graphic (a dot matrix data structure, representing a generally rectangular grid of pixels, or points of color, viewable via a monitor, paper, or other display medium) that reproduces a document or image by converting reflected or transmitted light into a digital signal that can be stored, transmitted, and reconstructed for display as an electronic image." Simply put, scanning merely renders an item visually in digital form.

- "Scanning" from the Society of American Archivists' Glossary, 2017

"Digitization, on the other hand, is the process of transforming analog material into binary electronic (digital) form, especially for storage and use in a computer. 

The term 'digitized' is used to distinguish materials that have been transformed from the media in which they were created from materials that are born digital. Digitization is distinguished from 'data entry', which is the process of typing textual records, often in forms designed to facilitate the process, into a computer system.

Digitization may start with information that is in electronic or physical form; for example, magnetic audio tape or phonograph discs. Digitization of textual documents typically produces an image of the words, which must be transformed to character data through a process of optical character recognition (OCR). In some instances, the OCR process may preserve text and page formatting."

- "Digitization" from the Society of American Archivists' Glossary, 2017

Why does it take longer than I expected to digitize materials?

Digitization is much more complex than simply scanning an archival object. The process of archival digitization includes scanning, but it also requires adding layers of metadata (descriptive, structural, and technical), creating multiple copies for various uses (access and preservation), as well as uploading the appropriate content/metadata to our digitial repository. Thus, the process requires time and expertise to uphold the professional standards that archivists are required to maintain. 

IJL is also one collecting area that is part of a larger archives that has hundreds of collections with materials to digitize. While we are a high priority in the digitization queue, there are always other projects being completed simulatneously. 

Information on CU Digitization Process

Why don't archivists digitize everything?

Only a tiny fraction of the world’s primary resources are available digitally... Why is that?

The PAMA (Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives) Archivists have put together a blog post with some of the reasoning behind the complicated process and decision-making: Why Don't Archivists Digitize Everything? 


I am interested in researching the IJL collections. Where do I submit my research inquiry?

Our archivists are happy to answer questions about the collections. Please make sure that you have read all of the provided information about the collections in which you are interested, including the finding aid when avaliable, before contacting our team. 

Use the contact form to submit your research inquiries.

Can the Archives carry out research for me?

Archivists do not conduct research on behalf of others, however, they will be happy to assist you by pulling materials. Please see more information about conducting research in the archives in the SCA Reading Room on the Using Archival Materials page.