To cite materials from physical archives, follow the MLA format template. In general, list the author, if given, and then the title or a description of the work. If the work is contained in a collection, list the collection name as the title of the container. Include any other elements that apply. In the Location element, list the library or institution where the collection is held as well as any box, file, and manuscript numbers. Below are examples of works-cited-list entries for archival material found in print and online.

Complete Work

In the following entry, the library housing the manuscript is in the Location element: 

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Circa 1400-10, British Library, London, Harley MS 7334.

Document in an Archival Collection

In the entry below, the library may be considered part of the container (Decision Magazine Papers, Yale U Library, Manuscripts and Archives) or part of the location (Yale U Library, MS 176, box 1, folder 20):

Auden, W. H., and Klaus Mann. Prospectus. Decision Magazine Papers, Yale U Library, New Haven, Manuscripts and Archives, MS 176, box 1, folder 20.


When you cite letters, include the date of the letter in the middle supplemental element after the title or description of the letter. If you wish to indicate that the letter is handwritten, list “Manuscript” in the supplemental element at the end of the entry:

Benton, Thomas Hart. Letter to Charles Fremont. 22 June 1847. John Charles Fremont Papers, Southwest Museum Library, Los Angeles. Manuscript.

Moore, Marianne. Letter to Bryher. 28 Sept. 1954. Bryher Papers, Yale U, New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, GEN MSS 97, box 38, folder 1373.

Uncertain Date

If the date of a document is uncertain, add a question mark after the date:

Borges, Jorge Luis. “Thorkelin y el Beowulf.” 1955–60? Jorge Luis Borges Papers, U of Texas, Austin, Harry Ransom Center, section 2, container 1.14, ff. 1r–11v.

Unprocessed Materials

If the material you are citing is in an unprocessed collection, provide in-text citations that include descriptions of the items and omit works-cited-list entries.

To learn how to cite archival material from websites and databases, see our post on citing artifacts in digital archives.

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Jennifer Rappaport

Jennifer Rappaport was managing editor of MLA style resources at the Modern Language Association. She received a BA in English and French from Vassar College and an MA in comparative literature from New York University, where she taught expository writing. Before coming to the MLA, she worked as an acquisitions editor at Oxford University Press and as a freelance copyeditor and translator for commercial and academic publishers.