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House History: A Guide to Uncovering the Stories of Local Buildings and Properties

Photographs / Visual Materials

Frances Benjamin Johnston, photographer. Michael Ferrell Counting House, Main St., Halifax Court House, Halifax County, North Carolina. 1938. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Photographs are not just illustrations, they are historic records that are an essential part of reasonably exhaustive research.

In addition to a spectrum of photographic materials, ranging from early daguerreotypes to modern born-digital images, the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division also holds architectural drawings, promotional posters, and much more that may pertain to the history of a building or community.

Street scenes, birds-eye-views, parades, disasters, family portraits, and other featured subjects may capture the structure you are researching and the property where it once stood or would later stand.

Explore archives at every level (local, state, federal) and seek out private family or local history collections that may include the address or location you are studying.

Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

Search the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) to find catalog records and digital images representing a rich cross-section of still pictures held by the Prints & Photographs Division and, in some cases, other units of the Library of Congress.

Although the catalog is added to on a regular basis, it is not an exhaustive listing of the holdings of the Prints & Photographs Division, which consist of more than 14 million items. Paper finding aids, card catalogs, and browsing files of pictures available on-site supplement descriptions in PPOC.


Library of Congress Collections

The Library of Congress Digital Collections contain a wide variety of photographic materials. A selection of these resources is provided below with links to the home pages for each relevant archive. You can also explore the complete list of Digital Collections to find even more and see the latest additions.

Other Digital Collections

In the digital age, it is easier than ever for photographs to be shared online. You may discover that the family, neighbors, or repositories you are reaching out to have posted some or all of their holdings to public web sites.

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are restricted and only available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Library of Congress Research Guides

Library of Congress curators and specialists have created research guides that highlight the many diverse and useful image collections available to researchers. Below are selected highlights, you can also study the complete list of Prints & Photographs Division research guides for even more ideas.