About this Reading Room
The Manuscript Division seeks to acquire, preserve, and make available for research use personal papers and organizational records documenting the scope and diversity of the American experience. With more than twelve thousand collections and over seventy-three million items, the collections touch upon nearly every aspect of American history and culture. The Manuscript Division's holdings are strongest in American national government, federal judiciary, diplomacy, military history, American literature, women's history, Black history, history of science, and history of the Library of Congress.
Located on the first floor of the Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building in Washington, D.C., the reading room is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to researchers ages 16 and above with a valid Reader Identification Card and who agree to adhere to the division’s rules and regulations. All researchers are strongly advised to contact the Manuscript Reading Room via Ask a Librarian before visiting. Many collections are stored offsite or may have access restrictions, and advance notice is needed to make these items available for research use.
Popular collections include the personal papers of twenty-three U.S. presidents, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln; nine hundred congressional collections, including Daniel Webster, Robert M. La Follette, and Patsy T. Mink; more than three dozen Supreme Court justices from John Jay to Thurgood Marshall to Ruth Bader Ginsburg; the papers of civil rights leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, and Frank Kameny; and the records of civil rights organizations ranging from the National American Woman Suffrage Organization to the NAACP. Other notable collections include the papers of scientists J. Robert Oppenheimer and Vera C. Rubin; writings and correspondence of authors Ralph Ellison and Shirley Jackson, and poets Walt Whitman and Edna St. Vincent Millay, and journalists Horace Greeley and Daniel Schorr; and the Library of Congress Archives.
The Manuscript Reading Room provides access to these and many other paper, microform, and digital collection materials. Reference staff provide in-person and remote access to collection materials, answer reference questions, and help secure the collections of the Manuscript Division.
In addition to the Reference and Reader Services Section, which is responsible for operating the Manuscript Reading Room, the Manuscript Division includes two other units. The Acquisitions and Outreach Section is composed of a group of historical and digital conversion specialists responsible for acquisitions, exhibitions, managing digitization projects, and other outreach and reference functions. The Preparation Section consists of archivists, archives technicians, and catalogers who arrange, describe, and provide inventory control of the division's manuscript collections.