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Vertical Files at the Alamo Research Center: A Gateway to Your Research Project

April 13, 2015

Resource Round-Up #2

When you visit the Alamo Research Center for a research appointment, staff members will often direct you to our vertical file on your topic first. What is a “vertical file?” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a “vertical file” is a “collection of articles (as pamphlets and clippings) that is maintained (as in a library) to answer brief questions or to provide points of information not easily located.” These subject files can be immensely useful, especially when you are starting out on your research quest. So, you may be asking yourself some questions. What kind of material can you find in a vertical file, who would want to use these files, and what subjects do we cover in the ARC’s vertical file collection?

The Vertical Files are stored on moveable "compact shelving." This allows us to maintain our large collection of over 70,000 files in as small a space as possible.

The Vertical Files are stored on moveable “compact shelving.” This allows us to maintain our large collection of over 70,000 files in as small a space as possible.

What kind of material can you find in a vertical file at the ARC?

Over the years, the ARC collection of vertical files has grown with the dedication of staff and the generosity of visitors and researchers who are willing to share the information they have in their possession. Today, we house approximately 70,000 vertical files, with some folders including hundreds of pages of information and some that only have one document. The contents of the files may include newspaper clippings, magazine articles, newsletters, photocopies of primary documents, copies of images and photographs, published scholarly articles, factoids, family trees, researchers’ notes, promotional pamphlets and other business-related ephemera, funeral pamphlets and obituaries. These files have been accumulated over more than sixty years, and some of the items in them are almost one hundred years old! Our vertical file may be the only location in the world where that information is written down and preserved.

Who would be interested in a vertical file?

Everyone! Genealogists may find family information, including family trees, historians will find all kinds of relevant leads for their research topic, students can easily learn about a particular person, place or event, and reporters can get some quick background on their feature story. Vertical files are a great place to begin any research project because of the breadth of the type of materials that you can find in the files. You may discover that someone else has already generated some of the legwork that you need for your project but could not find because it was not published.

What subjects do the vertical files at the ARC cover?

Our most popular files are the biographical files that we have on each of the Alamo defenders. However, we have files ranging in subject from very broad Texas topics to specific San Antonio topics. If you wanted to read about Texas agriculture, we have that! If learning about major events related to the San Antonio Spurs interests you, we have that, too! All of our vertical files have entries in our catalog. The best way to figure out if we have a vertical file about your research topic is to start with a catalog search. Remember your search tips: start with broad search terms, narrow down your terms if you get too many hits, and try alternate spellings if you don’t get results right away.

Give us a call at (210) 225-1071 or email us at to schedule your research appointment. We can’t wait to help you explore the Vertical Files and the rest of our outstanding collection!

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