how do i access topics and threads from the archives
Mark, You can use the search mechanism above. Just put in what you are searching for in the window on any (?) page (located below the maroon banner on top of the page) and it should access the history of Chowhound's posts. Please note that with advanced search option, you can search by time period, by poster, by one board, or all boards.
If you just want to browse....
Go a the board where you want to see archives. In the box right below the name of the board. the line that says "View by: Latest Reply| Date Started « Newer x topics, you are viewing 1-20 Older » " click on "Older". You'll hit the archives at some point.