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Largest Labor Archives is in Detroit Michigan

17 November 2021

 Reuther South

Image courtesy of Jackiepete, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Since the 1960's Michigan has become known for its labor movement and it should not be a surprise that Detroit, Michigan is home to the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs. The Reuther Library is housed on the campus of Wayne State University.


It is the largest labor archives in North America. In addition to international labor archives, Reuther houses resources about Michigan Community Life in Detroit and its superbs, Wayne State University archives, Michigan and national Civil Rights movement, and women's struggles in the workplace. 


The strength of the collection is during the 20th century and Jewish Community Archives (JCA). The 75,000 linear feet records cover items created by a person or organization. Additionally, electronic records are available.


Your starting place for using the Reuther Library should be their website. The latest information one needs to visit is found here. The collection is organized by title, but you can scroll through the collections and see that they are sub organized by family. Family might include the union, organization, personal papers, university archives and urban affairs to name a few. The dates covered are included as well.


Oral histories can be found at the Reuther Library. One I was interested in was the Grace Hospital, Ascession Number UR001352. Seven oral histories by Dr. Philipp Mason are in this collection. The Grace Hospital records aren't open to the public, but the finding aid will tell you that.


Many of the resources have .pdf finding aid guides with further information on the collection. Using the JCA, Jewish Community Archives, as an example, the search returns over 26,000 resources. Birmingham Temple Archives is one. The main page of the resource shows collection overview, finding aid view, and box list tabs.



Scroll down the page to find Scope and Content, Dates, Creator, Language, Access, Use, History, etc. This provides more information about the collection.


I have barely touched on what all is available at Reuther Library. Check out their blog, podcasts, publications, and image gallery. The publications area of the website shows the non manuscript sources in the library.


Don't think you will only find Michigan Labor Unions, or only UAW or CIO unions, or Michigan only materials. The scope of the Reuther Collection is world wide. You can always use the "Ask an Archivist" button to get your questions about the collection answered.

The Reuther Library at Wayne State University is one of the gems of Michigan research. Take a minute, or ten, to check it out.


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