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Library Resource Guide for: HISTORY (AMERICAN)

Finding Archives for North American History

Searching for archives and manuscript collections for your research into North American History? Here's how to start.

SEARCHING JOSIAH. A WORD search in JOSIAH for guide to archives and/or guide to manuscript (note the use of singular, rather than plural, as some titles use manuscript collections rather than manuscripts) will pull up a number of useful directories to collections. Some are older (but still relevant) printed guides. Many of these are specific to particular geographic locations (Illinois, for instance) or topics (e.g., women).


A. BAMCO: comprises findings aids for archival and manuscript collections at the John Hay Library.

B. RIAMCO: Consists of finding aids for archival and manuscript collections located in repositories across the state of Rhode Island. At present, RIAMCO consortium members include the Brown University Library, the John Carter Brown Library, RISD, the Rhode Island State Archives, the Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence College, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University URI Special Collections, and the Westerly Public Library.

C. COLLECTIONS A TO Z: Capsule descriptions of collections of rare books, manuscripts, archives and other unique holdings of the John Hay Library, with links to online finding aids and related external links.


1. The National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC).
PLEASE NOTE: Listings created since 1986 are available online through an OCLC link. Be forewarned that using the provided search templates retrieves published items as well as manuscript material. You may find it more efficient to do a direct search of WorldCat using the "archival materials" checkbox. Listings created up to 1993 are available in print. The Brown University Library holds the print version, which is indexed to make searching easier. You will want to note that records created between 1986 and 1993 are available both online and in print.

2. WORLDCAT (under QUICK LINKS on the Library homepage) locates materials reported through OCLC throughout the world and allows you to limit your search to archival materials.

3. AAD: Access to Archival Databases: will search online records at NARA (aka the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States).

4. Digital Librarian: Archives and Manuscripts. Includes lots of links to archives and manuscript repositories.

5. Ready, Net, Go: a meta-index of archival sites on the web.

6. Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web: a searchable index maintained by the Smithsonian which will help you locate materials at their home institutions. Covers a lot of ground.

7. Rhode Island Historical Records Advisory Board provides a comprehensive directory of all institutions and bodies in the State of Rhode Island that maintain historical records.

8. The print version of NHPRC Directory of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the U.S., though now more than 20 years old, is still useful, particularly when combined with a web search to verify current status of the repository and its holdings.

9. ArchiviaNet is the archival interface for Library and Archives Canada, including the collections of the former National Archives of Canada with the former National Library of Canada. Posted research tools include information on Canadian patents, census (1661-1911), immigration, land grants, and military records, as well as executive reports and other documentation of the government of Canada in the LAC collections.

10. AHA Archives Wiki is a project of the American Historical Association to compile a web-based directory of historical archives, including information on location, contacts and amenities in the area, as well as a summary of the repository's holdings. (Contributions to the wiki from interested parties are welcome, so you can also record your knowledge of an archive for the benefit of other researchers.)

11. Repositories of Primary Sources: An online directory of 5000 websites that describe manuscript and archival materials in locations across the globe. Created and maintained since 1995 byTerry Abraham at the University of Idaho Libraries

12. UNESCO Archives Portal: An international gateway that functions as a topical index to archives around the world, allowing users to identify collections of material pertinent to their research on an endless variety of topics.