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Manuscript Division


Understanding Manuscripts: A Basic Introduction
Manuscript Catalog Records
Finding Aids
Women's History Guides and Access Tools






In order to make the most effective use of the Manuscript Division's collections, it is helpful before visiting to:

Quick Facts About the Manuscript Division's Collections

  • The Manuscript Division's holdings of more than 53 million items, contained in approximately eleven thousand collections, account for nearly one-half of the entire Library of Congress collection of 121 million items.

  • They differ from the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, which principally maintains the official records of the United States government. Instead, most of the division's collections comprise the personal papers of individuals and families, along with a smattering of organizational records.

  • They generally are limited in focus to American history and culture.

  • They tend to reflect events, people, and organizations of national significance, although aspects of state and local history are invariably documented in the state files of national groups and in the letters and diaries of women and men who lived in, traveled to, or otherwise represented communities across the country.

  • Most of the division's collections were donated as gifts, although some were acquired through purchase or government transfer.

  • Collections range in size from one item to more than 2.5 million items, and they contain various types and formats of material.

  • Supplementing the division's original manuscript sources are microfilm copies of related collections in other American and foreign repositories, including, for example, some of the Spanish reproductions mentioned in the discussion of Latina sources in the Area Studies Collections and in the essay “Women on the Move.

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