Crafting a HIAS Bibliography

The HIAS team is busy assembling a website to accompany the HIAS Collection. This website will include access to a client database, a finding aid, a timeline, links to digital objects, and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, selected to contextualize the HIAS Collection for researchers.

I spent the last couple of days selecting sources to be included in this bibliography, and then listing them in proper Chicago Style citations. There are three main types of citation formats: APA, MLA, and Chicago/Turabian. APA (American Psychological Association) Style is used in the fields of Education, Psychology, and the Sciences; MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used in the Humanities fields; and Chicago/Turabian is typically used in the fields of Business, History, and the Fine Arts. Archival repositories tend to prefer the Chicago/Turabian Style, though many—including the Center for Jewish History–will provide citations in all three styles.

Listing books in Chicago Style is fairly easy—even with multiple authors or editors or editions, books retain the same general components. Archival collections, however, are much more complex.

The Chicago Manual of Style notes that:

“It is impossible to formulate specific rules applicable to all bibliography listings of manuscript materials because methods of arranging and cataloging differ from one depository to another, and kinds of material differ as well. Librarians and archivists are usually willing and able to explain to an author what is required in citations to the documents in their collections. A publisher’s editor may add or delete or rearrange items in listings only with the consent of the author.”

And indeed, the Manual provides two distinct bibliographic citation formats for archival collections:

“The bibliographic sequence most useful for all collections of correspondence and other personal papers named for an individual or group begins with the name of the author of the collected manuscripts of the title of the collection of items being cited and ends with the depository  and, where desirable, its location.


A second possible sequence begins with the depository (or its location) and ends with the collection or part of the collection being cited. This sequence is useful when a number of collections from the same depository are cited and it is desirable to list them together in the bibliography reference list.”

Making the situation even murkier is that the American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish History (of which the AJHS is a partner agency) present two different ways of citing collections in Chicago Style.

In building the primary source portion of the bibliography, I first consulted the finding aids of the collections in question. The AJHS finding aids contained the following preferred citation format: “Identification of item, date (if known); Creator; Collection Call Number; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.”


But the plot thickens; because the collections were cataloged and assigned metadata by the Center for Jewish History staff, the citation provided in the Center-generated record details page provides the following citation format: “Contributor Name (Last, First) [First, Last for additional contributors], Contributor Organization(s).Collection title, creation date.”


So, for collection I-93, the records of the United Service for the New Americans, the AJHS preferred citation would look like “Item, date (if known); United Service for New Americans Records; I-93; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.” While the Center generated citation would look like “Dewey, Thomas E, Truman, Harry S President, U.S, European Jewish Children’s Aid, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York Association for New Americans, and National Coordinating Committee. United Service for New Americans Records undated, 1946-1954, 1945.”

With all of these divergent formats, none of which quite worked for the bibliography, I had to construct a unique citation format which was in keeping with the Chicago Style, but which spoke to the specific purpose of the bibliography.

As the purpose of this bibliography is to refer researcher to resources, I discounted the need to include box and folder number. Further, the center-generated format was too specific—researchers need to know the collection name and call number, not the full provenance.

Thus, the completed, customized citation took the form of “Depository, depository location. Collection Name; Call Number,” and the completed citation in the bibliography for I-93 looks like “American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA. Records of the United Service for New Americans, undated, 1946-1954; I-93.”

Note: This post refers to information contained within the 14th Edition Chicago Manual of Style.


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