Frequently Asked Questions
- Genealogy/Local History
- American History
- Permissions, Copyright/Privacy and Publicity Rights
- Downloading and Saving Files
- Ordering Reproductions
- Bookmarking, Linking
- Reporting Errors, Mistakes
- What is American Memory?
American Memory is a multimedia web site of digitized historical documents, photographs, sound recordings, moving pictures, books, pamphlets, maps, and other resources from the Library of Congress’s vast holdings. A historic initiative in its own right, American Memory currently makes available more than 100 collections and more than 9 million individual items to users in the U.S. and throughout the world.
- Will the Library of Congress digitize all of its holdings?
No. Of the millions of books, photographs, prints, drawings, manuscripts, rare books, maps, sound recordings, moving pictures, and other materials held by the Library, only a small fraction are or probably ever will be recreated in digital form. American Memory will continue to focus on digitizing the Library's unique holdings that reflect American history and culture.
- How do you decide what to put online?
The Library carefully selects unique or rare Americana that will be particularly valuable to researchers, students, educators, and lifelong learners. The final selection of material for digitization is based on its historical, cultural, and educational importance; expected demand; the guidance of internal Library digital policymakers; and the ability of current technology to capture, facilitate access to, and maintain its content.
- What is a collection?
A collection is a group of Library materials organized, archived, and preserved together by format (for example, manuscripts, photographs, books, maps, or motion pictures), by subject matter, and/or by the name of the person or persons who first created or assembled the items or donated them to the Library of Congress. Most American Memory collections mirror the original Library collections from which they were digitized, but a few bring together in digital form materials from several different physical collections within the Library.
- Where can I find information about building digital collections?
Under the heading "Building the Digital Collection," each American Memory collection links specific technical information from its home page. A variety of general technical issues are also addressed in the section of the American Memory site on Technical Information.
- How can I view or listen to American Memory items?
Check the How to View page for information on viewing and listening to American Memory collection items.
- How do I cite online sources?
Each collection offers guidelines for citing its materials appropriately, under the heading "Rights and Reproductions" on the collection's home page.
The Learning Page of American Memory provides guidelines, examples, and links to other resources about citing electronic sources.
- I have an item much like one found in American Memory. How much is it worth? Is the Library interested in purchasing it?
The Library of Congress neither authenticates nor appraises books, works of art, or individual objects. Such services are provided by specialized businesses such as auction houses and antiquarian booksellers. You may wish to consult your local library for specialized collecting guides and catalogs. Appraisers and booksellers are listed in the yellow pages of metropolitan area telephone directories. Contact information for specialists to authenticate or appraise your item can be found through professional organizations such as the American Society of Appraisers and the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. The pamphlet "Your Old Books," by Peter Van Wingen, answers frequently asked book-related questions and includes bibliographical references.
Acquisitions of new materials to the Library's collections are handled by subject specialists and format specialists and are considered on a case-by-case basis. Potential donors should contact the appropriate Reading Room or the Library's Acquisitions Department.
- How can I donate an item to the Library?
The Library welcomes inquiries about donations but cannot accept everything. Please do NOT send the item(s) directly to the Library: instead, send gift offers identifying the item(s) to be donated. For more information, please contact:
Anglo/American Acquisitions Division (LS/ACQ/ANAD)
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20540-4170
Phone : 202+707-5361 Fax : 202+707-9440
Prospective donors of books published in the United States should be aware that the Library acquires many U.S. titles through copyright deposit.
- Do you have resources for teachers?
Yes. The Learning Page is designed for teachers, school librarians, students, and lifelong learners. It has tools to help users navigate American Memory historical collections, activities, lesson ideas, teacher-created lesson plans, and other information to help guide educators and their students in using American Memory’s primary sources in classrooms.
- Do you have sites just for kids?
Yes. America’s Story from America’s Library draws on the Library of Congress’s collections to feature stories, games, and fun facts for kids that help them learn about history in a playful and age-appropriate online environment. We encourage you to explore it!
- Can I find genealogy information in American Memory?
To see if information about your ancestors is included anywhere in American Memory, enter your family name in the search box at the top of each American Memory page. Serious genealogical researchers will also want to consult the bibliographies, research guides, and Web links available online from the Library's Local History and Genealogy Reading Room.
- Can I find local history content in American Memory?
To find American Memory collections specifically devoted to city, state, or regional subjects, you can browse the collections in a variety of ways. To find information about a specific place, enter the name in the search box at the top of any American Memory page. Also check the home pages of each of the books and other printed texts, American Memory collections of books and other printed texts, so that wherever possible you can search the full text of their documents.
- Where is the Declaration of Independence? The Constitution?
Although the originals are held at the National Archives, other versions of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, including early printed versions, can be found in several places on the Library of Congress Web site. Both documents are included in the collection Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789 . Early drafts of the Declaration of Independence are also available in two of the Library’s electronic exhibitions, American Treasures of the Library of Congress and Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents. Text versions of these documents are also linked from this historical documents page.
- Why doesn't American Memory cover all of American History?
American Memory showcases the exceptional primary sources held by the Library of Congress.
In addition, copyright protections (PDF), as well as Library of Congress gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing, and trademarks limit the 20th and 21st century materials that the Library can make available on the Web. For more information, consult the Library of Congress Legal Notices page.
- How do I search American Memory?
The Search Help page offers detailed guidance on search strategies and the scope of search results.
- How can I find other items online?
American Memory is only one of the online resources provided by the Library of Congress. Are you looking for help on using American Memory materials in education? Go to The Learning Page. Looking for historical materials for children and teenagers? Go to America’s Story from America’s Library. For international materials? Go to the Library's Global Gateway. The Library's online Exhibitions offer many other digitized historical materials in an interpretive context. The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog offers images of a vast array of additional graphic materials, while the main catalog records a substantial proportion of the Library's holdings in print and other formats.
- May I use American Memory materials in my school project, my publication, or on my Web page?
The Library does not grant or deny permission to use the content mounted in American Memory. Consult the Legal Notices page for more information.
- Are American Memory materials protected by copyright?
The American Memory web site does not provide definitive legal advice on particular questions of copyright, so you must make your own, independent assessment of the legal rights that may exist in the materials. General information about copyright and other rights in the American Memory materials is provided in the Legal Notices page that links from every American Memory page. Each American Memory collection is accompanied by a more specific copyright statement that links from its home page. Additionally, The Learning Page includes general information about copyright and fair use. Bibliographic records for individual items also often include specific copyright information. More on copyright can be found on the U.S. Copyright Office home page
- How do I download and save image files, such as prints, photographs, posters, and maps, from American Memory collections?
Images used on the World Wide Web are usually in .gif or .jpg format. American Memory also contains images in .pcx and .tif format. A complete description of these formats can be found in Viewing and Listening to American Memory Collections.
To save images:
- Place your mouse over the image. The arrow will change to a hand.
- Click the right mouse button (PC) or depress and hold the single button of the mouse (Macintosh).
- A menu will appear. Select Save image as or Save Picture as.
- A box will appear in which you indicate your desired name of the image file and where you wish it to be saved. Note: Web images often have non-intuitive file names (ex. 8406.jpg)-you may want to rename the image to something you will understand later (ex. goldrush.jpg).
To save map images: Saving an image (other than the thumbnail on the item record page) in the Map Collections, and others that use the MrSID format, is a slightly different process.
- In the collection's item record for the image, click on the thumbnail image to view the large version of the image.
- Place the cursor over the image and depress the right mouse button (PC) or single mouse button (Macintosh). Choose Save image as.
- The pop-up box that appears will list the file name as "map_image" or "dyn_image" with "Save as type" as all files *.*. Name the image, add .gif to the file name, and save the file.
How do I download and save audio and video files from American Memory collections?
To save audio and video files (RealAudio files are streaming files and cannot be saved to your computer):
- Place the computer's mouse over the link to the sound or video file. The arrow will change to a hand.
- Click the right mouse button (PC) or depress and hold the single mouse button (Macintosh).
- A menu will appear. Select Save link as.
- A box will appear in which you indicate the name of the sound or video file and where you wish it to be saved.
Note: Saving from the link is also a good technique for downloading TIFF and PCX image files from American Memory.
- How can I order reproductions of American Memory materials?
If downloading does not suit your needs, you may order reproductions of most American Memory items in a variety of formats. Information on obtaining reproductions, if available, links from collection home pages under the heading "Rights and Reproductions" or from a "Rights and Reproductions" link in an item's individual record.
- How do I create a link or bookmark to an American Memory item?
When you search the American Memory collections, many of the Web pages displayed are created "on the fly". That is, they are assembled by the computer in response to your particular request."On the fly" pages create problems for linking and bookmarking since the URL (Uniform Resource Locator or Web address) is temporary. Thus, if you bookmark an "on the fly" page, you will not be able to reach the address later. However, you can get a permanent URL using the process outlined below in most American Memory collections.
How will you know if the page you have reached has a permanent or a temporary URL? When you browse or search a collection, the items you discover will always have temporary URLs. Collection home pages, on the other hand, will have permanent URLs. Tip: Do not rely on any address with the word “temp” in it.
To find a permanent URL for an item first look at the bottom of the item record. In some collections, you will find shorter permanent addresses in the "Digital ID" field of the item record. The URLs begin with "http://hdl..." and are called "handles" or "handle addresses." (If the item is found in multiple places on the Library’s Web site, the handle may take you out of American Memory, for example, to the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.)
If there is no handle, or if you prefer to link to an item in its American Memory collection, use the directions below to find the permanent URL for the item:
Find the URL:
- Search for the item within the collection you wish to use. (If you use a multi-collection search to find the item your search will be much slower and the resultant URL may be unnecessarily long.)
- At the item record screen, go to Page Source (or Document Source or Source-depending on your browser) under View on the Web browser menu bar.
- A new window will open with the Web page's HTML formatting tags. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
- You will see "The following URL will result in display of this document" and on the next line will list a URL.
Copy the URL:
- Highlight the complete URL, including final parentheses.
- Copy the highlighted URL.
- Press Control-C (i.e., hold down the Control key while pressing the letter C key). Or select "copy" under the Edit Menu.
- Close the window displaying the HTML formatting tags by clicking the CLOSE box. (An X in the upper right-hand corner of the window.)
Bookmark the page:
- With the URL in the Location Box of the browser, press enter and wait a moment while the page loads again. You can now bookmark the Web page.
- On the browser toolbar, select Favorites (for Internet Explorer) or Bookmarks (Firefox). In the pull-down menu, choose Add to Favorites or Bookmark this Page.
Link the URL:
- Paste the tested URL into your Web page/HTML as the link URL.
- May I link to American Memory from my own Web site?
Because the Library of Congress is a public, federal institution, anyone may link to American Memory without permission from the Library. A graphic button is available to illustrate your link.
The Library of Congress likes to hear how its site is being used. The Library also requests that links not give the impression that the Library of Congress or American Memory expressly or implicitly endorses any particular product or service.
- Will you link to my site?
The Library of Congress does sometimes link to other quality, relevant Web sites. To make a suggestion, contact the Ask a Librarian service.
- How do I report a mistake in American Memory?
To report a typographical error, misspelling, non-functioning link, or other technical error in American Memory, please use the error report form. If you would like to make a general comment about American Memory, please use the comment form. To ask a reference or research question about the American Memory collections, please use the Ask a Librarian service. For more information about support resources for American Memory, go to the page of contact information.