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Polar Exploration: Primary Sources in the Manuscript Division

Visiting the Manuscript Reading Room

This section describes the steps researcher should take to prepare to conduct research at the Library of Congress Manuscript Reading Room. For more information on conducting research at the Library see "Information for Researchers" on the Manuscript Reading Room website. An orientation to research in the Manuscript Reading Room is available on the webpage "Using the Collections."

Location and Hours:

  • The Manuscript Reading Room is located in room LM-101 of the Library's James Madison Memorial Building. The room is open Mondays through Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and no specific appointment is needed for admittance. Please note that researchers must be above high school age to register.
  • Upon arrival at the Library, first-time users should proceed to room LM-133 in the Madison Building to obtain a reader's card. Cards are free and can be obtained by completing a registration process and presenting a valid driver's license, state-issued identification card, or passport. The reader's card must be produced for admission to the Manuscript Reading Room.

Confirming Access to Collections:

  • Two factors may affect your access to a collection: it may be stored in an offsite facility, and it may have access restrictions imposed by the donor. If you provide us with a list of the collections in which you are interested, we will inform you if arrangements must be made before your visit.
  • Student access to collections is generally limited to those engaged in graduate study; undergraduates with previous experience in using manuscripts who are working on a senior thesis or similar research project under the direction of a faculty member will be admitted upon an introduction in person or in writing by their advisers. Students under college age are not admitted to the Reading Room.
  • If a collection has been reproduced onto microfilm in whole or in part, Manuscript Division policy requires readers to consult the microfilm copy. We have microfilm reader machines that are equipped to save microfilm pages to a personal (USB) flash drive; you may wish to bring a flash drive with you for this purpose. Often the microfilm reels are available for interlibrary loan. For further information, see the website of the Library's Loan Division. You may also purchase copies of the microfilm through the Library's Duplication Service.

What to Bring:

  • Books and large sheaves of notes are not admitted into the reading room, but laptop computers are allowed, and power outlets are provided for them at most reading desks. A limited number of pages of notes are admitted, but each page must be stamped at the reference desk upon your arrival, and each page is checked by the security officer upon your departure.
  • Please note that paper copies of all finding aids are available for consultation in the reading room, and computers are provided for access to those finding aids that are also available online.

Scanning and Photograph Policies:

  • Readers may take photographs of items in the collections, but must use existing light only; no flash photography is permitted. Tripods and copy stands may be used subject to the approval of the reference staff.
  • With the approval of the reference staff, readers may make copies of manuscript material using machines in the Reading Room. The copies cost twenty cents per page, and payment is made using a debit or credit card, or copy cards sold through machines placed around the Library campus. In addition, overhead scanners are available to save images to personal USB flash drives. Personal scanners are prohibited.