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Access to Unprocessed Materials

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 20540-4730

Unprocessed collections are those that have not yet been prepared for routine service (i.e., housed for safe handling, labeled, and cataloged). Staff must arrange a time to serve the material and, in some cases, it must be brought in from off-site storage.

You may see one of two designations in descriptions of unprocessed material:

  • "Served by appointment (unprocessed)"
    • If the material is on site, a service appointment within a day or two of our receiving the request can generally be arranged.
    • If the material is off site, it may take as long as a week to retrieve it and have staff available to serve it.
  • "Please allow fourteen days advance notice": The size, condition, complexity, and off-site location of the material requires preparation time and extra arrangements for viewing.

Service of architectural drawings that have not yet been fully inventoried and described, such as those from the American Institute of Architects/American Architectural Foundation, may require additional lead time. Staff will need to ascertain if relevant material can be identified or is accessible. Specific requests involving a few drawings generally can be investigated more readily than requests for all of the work of an architect or firm.

If you have identified a specific unprocessed collection needed for your research (e.g., Smith Collection, PR 13 2001:141) please complete an online Request for Access to an Unprocessed Collection form.

If you are beginning your research and would like help in exploring the Division's holdings on your topic of interest, the fastest way to begin is by submitting your question to the Prints & Photographs Division Reference staff through an online "Ask a Librarian" form.

In many cases, popular images from the unprocessed collections are already online and may be searched in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.

Prepared by: Prints and Photographs Division. Last revised August 2019.

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  April 25, 2023
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