Finding Manuscripts and Archival Materials

At Andover-Harvard Library

Use the search box on the home page to search the Andover-Harvard finding aids (also called folder lists, registers, inventories, or guides) that describe the contents of its manuscripts and archives collections or browse the finding aids. Most of these collections are of unpublished material; if you are looking for printed books or journals, use those tabs in the search box. An appointment is necessary to use any manuscript or archival collection at Andover-Harvard Library. See the Requesting Services page for more information.

At Harvard

  1. Search HOLLIS
    • in the right-hand column, look for "Format" and limit by "Archives / Manuscripts"
    • then limit by author [for papers of an individual or family, or the records of an organization] or by subject [for writings by or about an individual, or topical subjects]
    • read the catalog entry. Be sure to read the entire "Biography" (or "History") and "Scope and Content" note; these sections contain valuable information about the contents of the collection.

    Write down the call number information (manuscripts at Andover-Harvard begin with the call number "bMS")

  2. Look for the finding aid (a.k.a., folder list, register, inventory, guide). If there is a link to the finding aid, it will be found under "<< More about this collection >>" or under any other links listed in the record.

    There are over 1,000 finding aids from manuscript repositories at Harvard available online at OASIS (Online Archival Search Information System). But this is just a small percentage of what is available at Harvard.

    Finding aids for pre-1986 collections at Houghton Library are found in: Inventories of Manuscripts in the Houghton Library, Harvard University. Alexandria, Va., U.S.A.: Chadwyck-Healey, [1986?]. 348 microfiche; 11 x 15 cm. [Houghton: Reading Room HRR 1 F; Widener: Microfiche RR 47]

  3. Learn about the repository

    Other repositories at Harvard include:

    For information about the many archives and manuscripts at Harvard, also see the Harvard Library website.

    In general, manuscript materials are kept in closed stacks and may only be used in a designated reading room. You will probably be asked to leave all materials outside the reading room except pencils, note cards, paper, and/or a computer. Access to some collections may be restricted.

Beyond Harvard

Archive Finder. [Provides information about primary source materials from over 5,000 manuscript repositories in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. It includes records, with indexes, for approximately 100,000 manuscript and other collections. It brings together information from the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC), the National Inventory of Documentary Sources (NIDS), and the National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the UK and Ireland. Many Harvard records will be found here.] Harvard E-Resource.

ArchiveGrid. [This database contains nearly a million records (largely summary descriptions) of archives, manuscripts, and special collections. Contact information for repositories is also available.] Harvard E-Resource.

Index to Personal Names in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1959-1984. Alexandria: Chadwyck-Healey, 1988. 2 v.; 29 cm. [This has been incorporated into ArchivesUSA, but sometimes it's easier to scan the printed version.] [Ref. Z6620.U5 N32 1988]

Five College Archives Digital Access Project. [Gateway to a large digital archive of historical resources found at Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, as well as the University of Massachusetts. The site provides access to digitized information primarily relating to history and education.] Free E-Resource.

Google Scholar. [Because Google Scholar searches the websites of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web, it is more likely to produce "scholarly" results. Free version does not include access to online journal articles.] Harvard E-Resource; free version available.

There are many printed guides to archival collections as well as other sources of such information. Contact a research librarian for assistance in finding these.