Archives and Manuscripts

Collections at Harvard

HOLLIS: offers the most effective way to search for Harvard's archives and manuscripts

Unrestricted Keyword anywhere search on, say "civil rights", then under Refine My Results, go to Resource Type and select More options.  Then select: Include Archives/Manuscripts; Exclude Dissertations.

Collect Subject terms from pertinent records as you do keyword searches and look for related Subject terms. Subject terms for organizations are often useful in finding personal papers.

Many HOLLIS records for manuscript and archival collections have links to online inventories (finding aids).  The full text of the finding aids is searched in a HOLLIS+ search.

Be sure to talk with the librarians/archivists.  They know their collections best.


Guide to African American and African primary sources at Harvard University, by Barbara A. Burg, Richard Newman, Elizabeth E. Sandager. Phoenix, Ariz. : Oryx Press, 2000, 217 p
Internet Archive full text

The Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America has an enormous collection of personal papers (archives) of women activists. Schlesinger guides

Microfilm Copies of Collections at Other Repositories

Many archival and manuscript primary sources held by other repositories have been microfilmed have been purchased by Harvard. Most (other than newspapers) are available in the Government Documents/Microforms Collection in the Lamont Library Level B. Some microfilm is held by other Harvard libraries (e.g., the archives of the ACLU are at the Law School Library). Finding microfilm can be tricky unless your search is very specific. A Keyword anywhere search on “Royal Society Great Britain” yields too many records. An organization name, e.g., “Royal Society Great Britain” can be searched as an Author keyword search.  You can limit to microfilm in three ways (easiest in HOLLIS Classic Expanded Search). For a careful search, try all three:

  • Limit to Format: Microfilm. But HOLLIS records made before about 1980 did not always receive the Microfilm tag.
  • Limit to Location: Microforms (Lamont). But Countway, Law and other libraries have some microfilm.
  • Limit the search by adding the the Subject terms: Archives or Correspondence or Diaries or Manuscripts or Notebooks or Sources. The word Papers sometimes appears in pertinent titles and may be searched as a Title keyword search, but it often yields too many irrelevant records when searched as Keyword anywhere.

In the HOLLIS record, "INDEX Film" refers to a printed guide kept on bookshelves in Lamont. Many of these guides have been digitized and are available online. Search the collection title in Google. More on microfilm including other methods of finding guides.

Collections at Other Repositories

Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

List of other Boston-area repositories.

A research guide on finding manuscripts and archival material at Harvard, elsewhere in the US, and in Europe is available.