Many archives now have collections of digitized material that is available to view online.
Some important points to consider:
Screenshot: Walter Orr Roberts papers, CU Digital Library
When you do archival research in a Reading Room, you can usually page through the all the material in a folder, box, or collection. In contrast, when collections are digitized and made available online, you usually search and discover one document at a time. When doing archival research from digital collections, it's very important to understand the metadata that describes each archival document.
The simplest definition of metadata is "data about data."
Metadata refers to all of the descriptive information that an archive or digital platform provides about a resource, including:
This information may not be original to the document. Most of us to do not label all of our letters, research notes, or other documents with clearly identifiable titles, in anticipation of future historical researchers. Instead, metadata is written and provided by archivists, based on physical examination of the records, the collection context, information given by the donor, historical research, and other sources.
To properly identify and evaluate primary source documents found in digital collections, be sure to consult the metadata information that accompanies it. It may help you to understand the what, when, and where of the document, who created it in, and how it was used.
The following are some suggested digital collections of archival material, though there are many more. Most archives, universities, and historical societies now have collections of digitized material available for online access.