University Libraries

Documenting Labor Inside and Out

Table of Contents   |   Next Page


The Archives of Public Affairs and Policy

Archives and Labor Records

Who Uses Labor Records?

Internal Documents



Union Members

Union Democracy

Collective Bargaining

Political Action


Labor Culture


Additional Resources

Picket signs, ca. November 1976
Picket signs, ca. November 1976, photographer unknown (Records of United University Professions).
Picket signs represent one of the first things that come to mind for many people when they think about labor and labor organizations: strikes. But walking the picket line, while one of the more visible activities of labor unions, is only one facet of the entire labor movement.

To fully document labor you not only need the flyers, picket signs, and photographs of picketing that document unions' strikes, but also the meeting minutes, membership lists, correspondence, and publications of labor organizations. Important, also, are the records of individual workers and of social and community groups that seek to improve the lives of workers. Some labor records may primarily be printed documents, particularly those documenting the internal operations of a union. But documenting labor does not stop there. Photographs, picket signs, bumper stickers, buttons, t-shirts, and posters are valuable artifacts that further document the labor movement.

Kathleen Sims's vest, ca. 1995
Vest of Kathleen Sims, Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU), displaying the many buttons she acquired during her involvement with GSEU (Records of GSEU).

This exhibit features the labor-related collections held in the Archives of Public Affairs and Policy (APAP) at the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York. These collections contain a range of materials, from the most basic internal records to those that document unions' interactions with management, the larger labor community, and the world at large. This exhibit shows the wide array of records that labor organizations generate and the types of information that those records provide. These records are used by historians, scholars, and others interested in the labor movement and the labor history of New York's Capital District.

Digital Exhibit created by Cynthia K. Sauer, Consultant, and Brian Keough, Head, 2002
Copyright 2002 M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives
Comments to