Documentary Collections and Microfilm

Groups of primary sources which have been collected and published are often called "documentary collections" and bear the Subject term "Sources". These may exist in printed form, in microfilm or online.

Southern pamphlets on secession, November 1860-April 1861, ed. by Jon L. Wakelyn. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996, 418 p.
Widener | WID-LC | E458.1 .S68 1996
--Subject terms:
Secession -- Southern States -- Sources
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 – Pamphlets

Search for them in HOLLIS by adding to your search as Subject Keyword the general term, Sources, or the more specialized terms Archives, Correspondence, Diaries, Manuscripts or Personal narratives (refers to accounts of wars and diseases only).


Vast amounts of primary source material - documentary collections, archival collections, manuscripts and other material - exists on microfilm. Government Documents/Microforms Collection in the Lamont Library, holds most of Harvard's microforms, other than newspapers. Many microfilm sets are analysed, i.e., have records for individual included items in the HOLLIS Catalog, but this is by no means always the case.

Microforms are sometimes hard to find in online catalogs. You can limit to microforms in Expanded Search in (only) HOLLIS Classic, but before around 1980 the Microform format tag was not consistently attached to HOLLIS records. Try limiting to Location: Microforms (Lamont) as well, bearing in mind that there are microforms in other libraries. The microfilm ACLU archives are in the Law Library.

Harvard owns many microifilms of archival and manuscript collections held by other repositories. For an obscure topic or person, do a general keyword search limiting to Format: Microfilm. For major topics or persons, this may retrieve too many records. In this case, search your topic/person combined with the keywords: Archives or Correspondence or Diaries or Manuscripts or Notebooks or Sources or papers.

Thomas Addis Emmet collection.
Location : Microforms (Lamont) Film A 913
Location : Microforms (Lamont) INDEX Film A 913 = guide
--About 10,800 historical manuscripts relating chiefly to the American Revolution era. Contains documents by the signers of the Declaration of Independence as well as nearly every man who distinguished himself during this period of American history. The manuscripts are arranged in 28 topics. Includes correspondence and letter books of generals and other officers.
--Filmed from originals held at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, The New York Public Library.
--The Thomas Addis Emmet Collection Roll Contents
--Thomas Addis Emmet collection, 1483-1876, bulk (1700-1800) See View Finding Aid link for detailed list of collection.

To see if other libraries have microform of interest, go to WorldCat. Choose Advanced Search and enter your author, title, or keywords. You may set Subtype Limits from Any Format to Microform.

It is often useful to browse lists, such as:

Guide to the Microform Collections [in the Library of Congress]: Index by Format and Subject A-J. For information on collections found in the Index, look up the full record by hitting the appropriate letter in the green band.

Guide to Microform and CD-Rom Sources for History and Political Science in the University of Chicago Library, compiled by Frank Conaway. (Sources in Social Sciences in the University of Chicago Library, 2, 2001) is a valuable list of microfilms, often also held by Harvard, arranged by subject.

Women’s Studies: Guide to Microform Research Collections in the University of Chicago Library

NARA Microfilm Catalogs lists catalogs of US National Archives microfilms. Hitting "How to Order Microfilm" takes you to the general NARA microfilm catalog.

Collection Guides

Large microfilm collections are typically accessed via printed guides, the call numbers of which include the term "INDEX" in HOLLIS. Many microfilm collection guides are available online but are not linked from HOLLIS. Some may be found on their publisher's web sites. Large microform publishers include:
Primary Source Media's Online Guides
Scholarly Resources Online Guides
Adam Matthew Digital Guides
University Publications of America (ProQuest)

Microfilm collection titles can also be searched in Google.