Providing users of historical records with effective access to the wealth of documentation housed in archives and manuscript repositories is a fundamental goal of archival practice. Meeting this objective has never been easy, and the continuing growth in the number of repositories and the size of their holdings has increased the difficulties. This task has been made more complex by expansion in the number and variety of uses of archival holdings. The broadened scope of historical investigation, including use by social scientists, genealogists, and journalists, has increased the need for common access points to different types of documentation housed in a variety of repositories. While this need for multi-institutional access has grown in recent years, it is not a new concern of users of historical records.