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Presidential Family Correspondence: Manuscript Collections and Resources at the Library of Congress

Searching the Digital Collections

There are over 400 collections digitized available through the Library of Congress' Digital Collections webpage. Twenty-three of the Manuscript Division's 110 digitized collections are presidential collections.

Collections With Item-level Description

Collections described at the item level can be navigated with keyword searches of names and dates, while collections not described at the item level cannot be searched with keywords for individual items. For example, searching the George Washington papers for "inaugural address" will retrieve individual items related to the search, but the same search in the Ulysses S. Grant papers does not. To search collections indexed at the item level, navigate to the 'Collection Items' page within the digital collection and try searching key names, dates, or subjects. To search collections not indexed at the item level, you can search for a specific item within the index available for each and then navigate to the corresponding folder and move through each item within the folder. Items in folders are usually in chronological order. To search collections without a specific item in mind, a good place to begin is at the collection's description on the "About this Collection" or "Articles and Resources" page of each digital collection, or finding aid to view the collection's overall contents. If you are having trouble navigating the online collection, you can ask for assistance using the Ask a Librarian service.

The following three collections are described at the item level:

Navigation Tips and Tricks

Find digital collections from the Manuscript Division on the Library's Digital Collections page.

Collections of presidential papers in the Manuscript Division may be accessed in a variety of ways. Below are instructions for accessing the Chester A. Arthur Papers, but the instructions are generally applicable for all of our presidential collections.

  • Through an online presentation that includes not only the collection items themselves, but also a selected bibliography in “Related Resources,” a timeline of Arthur’s life, and featured items displayed in slide carousel of images that suggest the range of materials available in the collection.
  • Through the HTML version of the finding aid; click on the “digital content available” hyperlinks in the Contents List section of the guide. A new window will open containing the object record for that material. Click on the document image in the center to open the viewer that provides access to the content.
  • Through the PDF version of the finding aid; click on the “digital content available” hyperlinks in the Container List section of the guide. Clicking on the hyperlink will forward that page to the object record for the material. Depending on your internet browser, hitting the “back” arrow may return you to the start of the PDF, rather than to your last location in the guide.

If you anticipate needing to toggle back and forth between the finding aid and object records, then the HTML version will be easier to use as object records are opened automatically in a new window. If using the PDF version of the finding aid, right clicking on the “digital content available” link will allow you to manually open a new tab in which to access the material without losing your place in the finding aid on the first tab.

The bulk of the online presentation was scanned from the microfilm edition of the collection, and items without a microfilm surrogate were scanned from the original documents.

Please note that this digital collection is not indexed to the level of individual documents, and that the collection is presented at the level of description found in the finding aid (from which the metadata in the online collection is derived). Keyword searching of the collection will not return results for individual items; it will only search the level of description available in the container listing of the collection finding aid. The best way to approach searching the Manuscript Division’s online collections is to pretend that you are in the Manuscript Reading Room and are examining the microfilm reels/containers most appropriate to your research. This may only involve searching through a single folder, or it may require you to scan through a microfilm reel’s worth of material.

The Index to the Chester A. Arthur Papers, published by the Manuscript Division in 1961 after the bulk of the collection was microfilmed, provides a full list of the correspondents and notes the series number and dates of the items indexed. This information is helpful in finding individual letters or documents in the online version. Additional materials received by the Library after 1961 are not listed in this index. For additional guidance on navigation presidential indexes, visit the "Using an Index to Navigate Digitized Collections" section of this guide.