Skip to Main Content

Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives: Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia

The Catholic University of America: Special Collections

Introductory Information

The Catholic University of America: Special Collections External

Address: Aquinas Hall 101, 620 Michigan Ave., N.E., Washington, DC 20064

Telephone number: 202-319-5065

Contact information External

Online catalog External

Digital Collections link External

Access Policies

Hours of service External

Open to the public External : By Appointment

Interlibrary loan: No

Reference policy: Reference requests are accepted by: Ask-a-Librarian form, chat, telephone, email, and in-person.

Background note:
The Department of Archives, Manuscripts, and Museum Collections was established in 1948. Total holdings for the growing collections are approximately 8,000 cubic feet. In 2019 the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, so known since 2002, formally merged with Rare Books Collections to establish the Catholic University Special Collections.


Books and monographs
There are approximately 33,000 volumes in the general collection and Clementine Library; 15,000 volumes of American Catholic pamphlets; and 6,700 volumes of Catholic Americana (catechisms, 19th-century publications, parish histories), covering the 15th through the 19th centuries. The Clementine Library (Albani family library; Gian Francesco Albani reigned as Pope Clement XI from 1700 to 1721) contains about 10,000 volumes of religious material on canon law, theology, church history, Chinese Catholic converts, and Jansenism. The Malta collection includes works about the Mediterranean island nation of Malta (home since ca. 60 A.D. to one of Christianity’s earliest communities) as well as materials documenting the history of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The general collections of about 23,000 volumes are strong in patristics, theology, church history, liturgy, devotional books, and canon law. Catholic Americana includes American Catholic pamphlets, catechisms, Catholic directories, and 19th-century publications and parish histories, which consists of over 3,700 items, from as early as 1791, including materials from early Catholic American settlements

There is a card catalog for the Clementine Library, with some materials listed in an in-house database. There is also an in-house database listing the American Catholic pamphlets. The general collections are listed in the shared online catalog of the Washington Research Library Consortium and a supplementary departmental card catalog.

Periodicals and newspapers
There are about 25 American Catholic periodical titles, lengthy runs of 6 newspapers, and about 250 volumes of the Catholic Almanac/Catholic Directory. These are primarily from the 19th century, with newspaper holdings extending to the mid-20th century. The collection of American Catholic directories runs from 1833 to 1912.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondences, and/or oral histories
Special Collections has the retired records of major American Catholic organizations such as the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the National Catholic Educational Association, the Catholic Interracial Council of New York, and the United States Catholic Conference. There are also records for other institutions, such as the American Catholic Historical Association (restrictions apply), the Catholic Anthropological Conference, Catholic Charities USA, the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, the Catholic Theological Society of America (restrictions apply), the Christ Child Society (restrictions apply), the Committee on the Revision of the New Testament, and the International Federation of Catholic Alumnæ.

Special Collections also has custody of the personal papers of a number of prominent Catholics, including Archbishop John Carroll, Paul J. Hallinan (Vatican II Council Collection; restrictions apply), Aloisius Cardinal Muench (restrictions apply), George Gilmary Higgins, Paul Hanly Furfey, John Montgomery Cooper, John Augustine Ryan, Francis Haas, Eli Lindesmith, Peter Guilday, John Tracy Ellis, and Thomas Joseph Shahan. There are also archival records for such publications as the Catholic Educational Review, the Catholic Encyclopedia, and the Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium.

Another area of strength are the holdings related to American labor history, These include the papers of T. V. Powderly, John Mitchell, John Brophy, Phillip Murray, Harry C. Read, Joseph D. Keenan, and the records of the Congress of Industrial Organization prior to its 1955 merger with the American Federation of Labor to form the AFL-CIO.

Among the smaller archival collections are materials on the Americanist controversy, anti-Catholic literature from the 1920s, printed matter related to James Cardinal Gibbons (1869-1962), a collection of autographed papal documents (1578-1865), materials on the Ursuline convent in Massachusetts (1832-1903), materials on Catholic missions among native Americans (19th century), and an annotated register of participants in the Vatican I Council (1869).

There are listings for many of the manuscript collections on the CUA website External

For further information contact the Archivist/Museum Director.

The Department has microfilm copies of records for such organizations as the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish College in Rome, the Josephite Fathers, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society of the Archdiocese of Washington. There are also a number of microfilmed collections of personal papers, including papers of Henry Cardinal Manning, Archbishop John Hughes and Bishop Denis O'Connell.

Videos and sound recordings
The collection is still in development.

Vertical files
There are numerous file cabinets of mostly 20th-century materials. The emphasis of these files is on the history of Catholic University, its records and manuscript collections, within the overall context of the American Roman Catholic Church.

The Museum Collection contains numerous paintings, prints, and artifacts reflecting Catholic material culture. Photographs abound in numerous manuscript collections such as the papers of Terence Vincent Powderly, John Mitchell, George Gilmary Higgins, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, the coworkers of Mother Teresa in America, and the Catholic Interracial Council of New York. There are also substantial photograph holdings from the records of Catholic University's Public Affairs Office. Emphases include Catholic education, Catholic activism including race relations and labor unions, and portraits of noted religious and lay persons.

There are finding aids for many of these collections, generally on the series level.

Databases and/or electronic resources External

Digital collections External

Subject Headings

Anti-Catholicism; Bible; Biblical studies; Canon Law; Carmelites; Carroll, John, Archbishop, 1735-1815; Catechisms; Catholic Church; Catholic Church--Publishing; Catholic Church--Societies, etc.; Catholic Church--United States--History; Christian biography; Church buildings; Church history; Councils and synods; Dissertations; Ecumenical movement; Education and religion; Ellis, John Tracy, 1905-1992; Franciscans; Gibbons, James, Cardinal, 1834-1921; Indians of North America--Religion; Jansenism; Jesuits; Liberation theology; Liturgy; Manning, Henry Edward, 1808-1892; Missions and missionaries; Missions and missionaries--China; Monasticism and religious orders; Muench, Aloisius Joseph, Archbishop, 1889-1962; Papacy; Papal encyclicals; Patristics; Religion and communism; Religion and state; Religious tracts; Ritual; Sacraments; Saints; Theological education; Vatican I Council; Vatican II Council; Women and religion