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

Library of Congress: Manuscript Division

Introductory Information

Library of Congress: Manuscript Division

Address: 101 Independence Avenue SE, James Madison Building, Room LM101, Washington, DC 20540-4650

Telephone number: (202) 707-5387

Contact information

Online catalog

Digital Collections link

Access Policies

Hours of service

Open to the public: Yes

Interlibrary loan: Selected microfilm collections with restrictions

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

A Library of Congress Reader Registration card is required to use Library of Congress reading rooms. To obtain a registration card, applicants must be 16 years of age or older and present photo identification bearing a verifiable permanent address. Please see Reader Registration and Access to Library of Congress Reading Rooms for more information. NOTE: Minors and high school students are not admitted to the Manuscript Reading Room.

The national manuscript collection may be consulted by any person engaged in serious research who presents his/her Reader Registration card, completes the Manuscript Division's registration process, and agrees to adhere to the Division's rules for the use of rare materials. Student access to the collections is generally limited to those engaged in graduate study; undergraduates with previous experience in using manuscripts and 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 advisor.

All researchers are advised to write or telephone the Manuscript Reading Room prior to visiting. Many collections are stored off-site, and advance notice is needed to retrieve these items for research.

Manuscripts on microfilm may be requested through interlibrary loan, but the Division reserves the right to deny loan requests for microfilm of collections which are stored off-site or for which there are no master negatives.

Restrictions on the use of certain materials have been imposed by donors for reasons of national security; information governing the use of any specific group of manuscripts will be supplied upon request.

Background note:
The Manuscript Division was one of several "departments" established in 1897, when the Library of Congress moved from the United States Capitol to the newly-constructed building nearby. Its staff of four assumed custody of a collection of 25,000 manuscripts which had accumulated throughout the 19th century. In 1903, by an act of Congress and an executive order, the State Department began transferring historical papers to the Library of Congress, including several presidential collections, which had been acquired by the federal government.
Despite its early concentration upon acquiring original manuscripts for political, military, and diplomatic history, the Division soon broadened its acquisition interests, especially after World War I, to include cultural history, history of science, and the archives of nongovernmental organizations. Its current holdings include some of the greatest manuscript treasures of American history and culture.


Archives, manuscripts, correspondences, and/or oral histories
The Manuscript Division holds a large quantity of materials relating to religion and theology. Below is a sampling of the religion-related collections which can be found here. Records are primarily from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

Religious subject matter can also be found within many other manuscript collections. A few examples:

The Library of Congress Online Catalog provides current bibliographical and cataloging information for collections in the custody of the Manuscript Division. Catalog records also link to digital content and finding aids when these are available. A finding aid provides a detailed description of a collection by summarizing the overall scope of the content, conveying details about the individuals and organizations involved, and listing box and folder headings. Special service conditions are noted, including terms under which the collection may be accessed or copied. Links are provided to digitized content, when available. Most finding aids are available online and are keyword searchable at Consult the Division's Manuscript Division Finding Aids Online for more information. Paper copies are also available for use in the Manuscript Reading Room. Please contact the Reading Room staff for further assistance.

Manuscript collections primarily consist of unpublished primary source documents, including letters, diaries, memoranda, notes, photographs, and scrapbooks. These include a wide variety of formats, including microfilm, photographs and visual material, maps, digitized and born digital files. For preservation reasons, Manuscript Reading Room policy requires researchers to consult surrogates in lieu of original material whenever available.

Notice: Appointments are optional, but encouraged. To help us better serve you, request a research appointment to ensure collection material is accessible during your visit at the Library. The Library of Congress asks all visitors to follow our COVID-19 health screening protocols, which are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol. For additional instructions, see the Researcher Scheduling page.

Databases and/or electronic resources

Digital collections

Subject Headings

African Americans--Religion; American Sunday School Union; Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887; Bryan, William Jennings, 1860-1925; Catholic Church; Christian biography; Christian Science; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Darrow, Clarence, 1857-1938; Indians of North America--Missions; Inquisition; Jesuits; Judaism; Marshall, Peter, 1902-1949; Missions and missionaries; Moody, Dwight Lyman, 1837-1899; Moral Re-Armament; Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971; Presbyterian Church; Religion--United States--History; Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America; Shakers; Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; Universal Fellowship Foundation