In this section of the guide, you will find information about some of the ways you can access Library of Congress digital collections materials.
This research guide has been designed to support people seeking to use the Library of Collections in a digital way, whether that is accessing digital materials, downloading content, using digital tools to present research—like a website—or using other digital methods like computational analysis.
Some materials are available onsite at the Library or offsite on the Library's website. However, please note that many digital materials are only available on premises due to rights restrictions, which are gone over in more detail in the Library of Congress Copyright Guide.
Visit the Digital Collections Management Compendium to learn more about the Library's approaches to providing access to digital content.
The most straightforward way to find digital collections is through the Library of Congress' search. By default, LOC.gov searches only materials that are available online, which includes online copies of collection material, online finding aids, library webpages, library event listings, catalog records for electronic resources available online through other sites, and federal legislation from CONGRESS.gov. You can use the search box at the top of the Library of Congress website to search for the materials using keywords, title, author, or other information. Then, you can use the filters on the left to narrow your search.
If the results you receive are still too broad or off-topic, you can also try finding a specific thematic digital collection and then search only within that specific collection.
Note: When on a LOC.gov search page, if you select the “All Items" filter on the top left, then your search will also include catalog records for items held by the Library but not available online. If you click on one of these, you will be redirected to the Library catalog to request this item.
Some collection items are available as datasets that can be downloaded in bulk. There are various places to find them at the Library of Congress.
The Selected Datasets Collection allows users to filter results based upon a number of facets similar to traditional digital collection searches such as; online format, data, location, and subject. Most dataset downloads include a compressed ZIP file that includes any supplementary material.
For users with more advanced technical skills, the digital collections available through LOC.gov may also be queried, or searched, using the Library of Congress Application Programming Interface (API). This allows users to download collection content files and structured data (JSON/YAML) about collections. The API allows users to search all records indexed in LOC.gov, including records of collection materials available online, abbreviated versions of all Library of Congress Catalog records from catalog.loc.gov and finding aids in findingaids.loc.gov, institutional web pages in loc.gov, and federal legislation in CONGRESS.gov.
In addition to the documentation about how to use the APIs to access structured data and download online collection materials, you can also view the following tutorials on GitHub External or download them to your local computer and run using free Jupyter Notebook software. They include explanatory instructions alongside executable Python code.
If this is your first time using Jupyter Notebook software, there are many online tutorials External to help you install the software and get started, including instructions for installing Jupyter Notebook via the Anaconda software package. To run the notebook tutorials, most users will install Anaconda on their local computers (which includes Jupyter Notebook). Alternatively, the code in the notebooks can be viewed online in GitHub without downloading the files.
At the link above, you'll find tutorials using the loc.gov API on topics such as:
The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A separate API and access to bulk OCR downloads are available for the 18+ million pages of digitized historical newspapers available in the Chronicling America database.
API documentation for Chronicling America is available at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/about/api/.
Information about the bulk data OCR downloads is available at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ocr/.
Please consider subscribing to the ChronAm-Users discussion list for access to a community of Chronicling America data and API users.
For general questions about the Chronicling America API and data, contact NDNP staff at the Library of Congress.
Visit this list of projects and resources that have utilized the data from Chronicling America in unique ways.
Content for which the Library of Congress has licensed onsite access is primarily available in the Electronic Resources Online Catalog (EROC). The EROC provides access to databases, e-journals, e-books, and websites. The content within the EROC are made accessible as a result of a wide variety of license agreements that stipulate how and by whom the resources can be used.
The Library's collections include all kinds of born-digital materials including books, maps, photographs, recordings, and digital archive records. However, a significant portion of these Library materials are not available for public online access on loc.gov.
Born-digital materials originally created and maintained in a digital environment. Unlike digitized content, born-digital files are not surrogates for physical materials; they are original material (like text documents, digital photographs, and spreadsheets) on digital media (like floppy disks, CDs and hard drives) and are accessed using a variety of hardware and software. Born-digital materials that are available for research are described in the collection finding aids. Some of these may require a visit to an onsite reading room.
If you are interested in accessing the born-digital materials in collections held by the Library of Congress you can get in touch with a reference librarian using the Ask a Librarian Service.
The Library of Congress Web Archive manages, preserves, and provides access to archived web content selected by subject experts from across the Library. The Web Archiving program site includes helpful information for researchers and site owners, a glossary, frequently asked questions, as well as access to the collections.
Stacks is the primary system for access to rights restricted digital materials in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress. In contrast, (a) public domain and other unrestricted digitized content is broadly available via the Library’s public website; and (b) subscription databases and other licensed content is primarily available via the Electronic Resources Online Catalog (EROC).
Materials in Stacks are described and managed through other metadata systems, primarily the Library of Congress Online Catalog.