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Washington, D.C.: Resource Guide

Digital Collections

The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of primary source materials related to Washington, D.C., including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, motion pictures, photographs, sheet music, and sound recordings. Provided below is a link to the home page for each relevant digital collection along with selected highlights.

Written materials in the Library's digital collections include books, government documents, manuscripts, and sheet music. Examples of written materials related to Washington, D.C. are provided for most of the collections listed below.

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

The complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 20,000 documents.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection

The collection presents a panoramic and eclectic review of African-American history and culture, spanning almost one hundred years from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, with the bulk of the material published between 1875 and 1900. It includes copies of speeches that were given in the District of Columbia and copies of reports of organizations located in Washington, D.C.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress

This collection contains correspondence, scientific notebooks, journals, blueprints, articles, and photographs documenting Bell's invention of the telephone and his involvement in the first telephone company, his family life, his interest in the education of the deaf, and his aeronautical and other scientific research. It includes letters written when Alexander Graham Bell lived in the District of Columbia and began working with the deaf community.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

This collection documents the life of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) both through writings by and about Lincoln as well as a large body of publications concerning the issues of the times including slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and related topics.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

American Notes: Travels in America, 1750 to 1920

This collection comprises 253 published narratives by Americans and foreign visitors recounting their travels in the colonies and the United States and their observations and opinions about American peoples, places, and society from about 1750 to 1920.

Selected highlight from this collection:

The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920

The American Variety Stage is a multimedia anthology selected from various Library of Congress holdings. The collection includes playbills from Washington, D.C., theaters including the Academy of Music, the New National Theater, the Columbia Theater, and Chase’s Theater.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Capital Bay and the Bay: Narratives of Washington and the Chesapeake Bay Region, 1600 to 1925

The collection includes first-person narratives, early histories, historical biographies, promotional brochures, and books of photographs that capture in words and pictures a distinctive region as it developed between the onset of European settlement and the first quarter of the twentieth century. The collection contains twenty-nine items on the subject of the District of Columbia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation consists of a linked set of published congressional records of the United States of America from the Continental Congress through the 43rd Congress, 1774-1875.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress

The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress presents the papers of the nineteenth-century African-American abolitionist who escaped from slavery and then risked his own freedom by becoming an outspoken antislavery lecturer, writer, and publisher.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799

The complete George Washington Papers collection from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 65,000 documents.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

The James Madison Papers, 1723 to 1859

The James Madison Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 12,000 items captured in some 72,000 digital images.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820 to 1910

This collection portrays the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century through first-person accounts, biographies, promotional literature, local histories, ethnographic and antiquarian texts, colonial archival documents, and other works drawn from the Library of Congress's General Collections and Rare Books and Special Collections Division.

Selected highlight from this collection:

Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

The collection comprises 28,000 primary-source items dating from the seventeenth century to the present and encompasses key events and eras in American history. The collection includes 1,236 items printed in the District of Columbia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Slaves and the Courts, 1740 to 1860

Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 contains just over a hundred pamphlets and books (published between 1772 and 1889) concerning the difficult and troubling experiences of African and African-American slaves in the American colonies and the United States. The Slave Code for the District of Columbia is included in the special presentation.

Selected highlight from this collection:

Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 to 1827

The complete Thomas Jefferson Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 27,000 documents.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861 to 1865

Horatio Nelson Taft's diary consists of three manuscript volumes, totaling 1,240 digital images, that document daily life in Washington, D. C., through the eyes of Taft, an examiner for the U. S. Patent Office. Transcriptions accompany the digital images.

Selected highlight from this collection:

The visual material collections at the Library of Congress contains thousands of images documenting the history of Washington, D.C. Selected images of Washington, D.C. are provided for each collection listed below. Search PPOC using the subject headings United States--District of Columbia--Washington (D.C.) or District of Columbia--District of Columbia--Washington to find digital images.

African American Photographs Assembled for 1900 Paris Exposition

The Paris Exposition of 1900 included a display devoted to the history and "present conditions" of African Americans. W. E. B. Du Bois and special agent Thomas J. Calloway spearheaded the planning, collection and installation of the exhibit materials, which included 500 photographs. The collection contains more than 300 photographs compiled by Du Bois. Search this collection, using the terms Washington, D.C. or Howard University to locate items related to Washington, D.C.

Baseball Cards

This collection consists of 2,100 early baseball cards dating from 1887 to 1914. The baseball cards for the Washington Nationals and Washington Statesmen are included in this collection.

Posters: WPA Posters

This collection consists of 908 boldly colored and graphically diverse original posters produced from 1936 to 1943 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. The collection includes posters with information about Washington, D.C.

Selected highlight from this collection:

Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints

The Selected Civil War Photographs Collection contains 1,118 photographs. Most of the images were made under the supervision of Mathew B. Brady, and include scenes of military personnel, preparations for battle, and battle after-effects. It contains more than 100 images of Washington, D.C., and the surrounding community during the Civil War.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Daguerreotypes

There are approximately 700 daguerreotypes in the Prints & Photographs Division. The majority of the images are portraits, but the collection does include a few early architectural views, outdoor scenes, and copies of works of art. There are images of the Post Office building, the U.S. Capitol, and the U.S. Patent Office in this collection.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Detroit Publishing Company

The photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company Collection include more than 25,000 glass negatives and transparencies as well as about 300 color photolithograph prints, mostly of the eastern United States. Though Washington images primarily depict the city's monument core, there are images of the Navy Yard, the Carnegie Library and views of the “future” Washington.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry

Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry is a selection of more than 400 items from the Emile Berliner Papers and 108 Berliner sound recordings from the Library of Congress's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives

The black-and-white photographs of the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection are a landmark in the history of documentary photography. The collection contains more than 6000 images of the District of Columbia. It also includes the Gordon Parks series on Mrs. Ella Watson, which included the notable portrait “American Gothic.

Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Color Photographs

The color photographs of the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection include scenes of rural and small-town life, migrant labor, and the effects of the Great Depression. The collections contains more than thirty images of the District of Columbia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Gottscho-Schleisner Collection

The Gottscho-Schleisner Collection comprises more than 29,000 images, primarily of architectural subjects, including interiors and exteriors of homes, stores, offices, factories, historic buildings, and other structures. There are more than 400 images of Washington, D.C., including neighborhood houses in Anacostia, Tunlaw houses, the Frederick Douglass home, Fort Dupont, and Barry Farms.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey

The collections document achievements in architecture, engineering, and design in the United States and its territories through a comprehensive range of building types and engineering technologies. The collection contains more than 12,000 records relating to buildings in Washington, D.C. More information is added quarterly

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Horydczak Collection

The Theodor Horydczak collection (about 14,350 photographs online) documents the architecture and social life of the Washington metropolitan area in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, including exteriors and interiors of commercial, residential, and government buildings, as well as street scenes and views of neighborhoods.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Panoramic Photographs

The Panoramic Photograph Collection contains approximately 4,000 images featuring American cityscapes, landscapes, and group portraits. There are quite a number of images of the Library of Congress Jefferson Building, and panoramic images of Walter Reed Hospital, the D.C. waterfront, and events taking place in the District of Columbia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929

Prosperity and Thrift assembles a wide array of Library of Congress source materials from the 1920s that document the widespread prosperity of the Coolidge years, the nation's transition to a mass consumer economy, and the role of government in this transition. The collection includes images of Washington, D.C., businesses such as People’s Drug and the Washington Cadillac Company.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

William P. Gottlieb Collection

The William P. Gottlieb Collection, comprising more than 1600 photographs of celebrated jazz artists, documents the jazz scene from 1938 to 1948, primarily in New York City and Washington, D.C. There are photographs of performances from Fort Myer, the Howard Theater, the National Press Club, and programs record at WINX.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

The Library of Congress has custody of the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world with collections numbering over 5.5 million maps, 80,000 atlases, 6,000 reference works, over 500 globes and globe gores, 3,000 raised relief models, and a large number of cartographic materials in other formats, including over 19,000 CDs/DVDs.

Cities and Towns

This category includes maps that depict individual buildings to panoramic views of large urban areas. These maps record the evolution of cities illustrating the development and nature of economic activities, educational and religious facilities, parks, street patterns and widths, and transportation systems.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Civil War Maps

The Civil War Maps collection consists of reconnaissance, sketch, coastal, and theater-of-war maps that depict troop activities and fortifications during the Civil War.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Military Battles and Campaigns

This category contains maps showing campaigns of major military conflicts including troop movements, defensive structures and groundworks, roads to and from sites of military engagements, campsites, and local buildings, topography and vegetation. Some of the maps are manuscripts drawn on the field of battle, while others are engraved including some that have manuscript annotations reflecting the history of the battle or campaign. Browse this category by location to locate more than fifty maps for Washington, D.C.

Selected highlight from this collection:

Panoramic Maps

The panoramic map was a popular cartographic form used to depict U.S. and Canadian cities and towns during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Known also as bird's-eye views, perspective maps, and aero views, panoramic maps are nonphotographic representations of cities portrayed as if viewed from above at an oblique angle.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Railroad Maps, 1828 to 1900

Railroad maps represent an important historical record, illustrating the growth of travel and settlement as well as the development of industry and agriculture in the United States.

Selected highlight from this collection:

Sanborn Maps

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Online Checklist provides a searchable database of the fire insurance maps published by the Sanborn Map Company housed in the collections of the Geography and Map Division. The online checklist is based upon the Library's 1981 publication Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress and will be continually updated to reflect new acquisitions. Browse the collection by location to locate four maps for Washington, D.C.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Transportation and Communication

These maps document the development and status of transportation and communication systems on the national, state, and local level. Transportation maps can depict canal and river systems, cycling routes , railway lines and systems, roads and road networks, and traffic patterns. Communication maps illustrate the location and distribution of telegraph routes, telephone systems and radio coverage.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

The Library oversees one of the largest collections of motion pictures in the world. Acquired primarily through copyright deposit, exchange, gift and purchase, the collection spans the entire history of the cinema. The following moving image collections contain materials related to Washington, D.C.

Capital Drawings: Architectural Designs for Washington, D.C.

"Capital Drawings: Architectural Designs for Washington, D.C., from the Library of Congress" was published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the Library. Edited by C. Ford Peatross, the Library's curator of architecture, design and engineering collections in the Prints and Photographs Division, "Capital Drawings" features drawings for some of Washington's most important buildings, monuments and memorials as well as anonymous structures of everyday life and ambitious projects that were never built.

Civil Rights Oral Histories

On May 12, 2009, the U. S. Congress authorized a national initiative by passing The Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-19). The law directs the Library of Congress (LOC) and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to conduct a survey of existing oral history collections with relevance to the Civil Rights movement to obtain justice, freedom and equality for African Americans and to record new interviews with people who participated in the struggle, over a five year period beginning in 2010.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War

Historian and biographer Ernest B. Furgurson discussed his new book, which tells the story of how the Civil War transformed the nation's capital from a provincial city into one of America's most important cultural and social centers.

Hidden Washington: The Alley Communities of the Nation's Capital

The program brought to life the alley communities in Washington, D.C., where people lived, worked, played and worshiped.

Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

This collection features 341 motion pictures, 81 disc sound recordings, and other related materials, such as photographs and original magazine articles.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

The Last Days of a President: Films of McKinley and the Pan-American Exposition, 1901

The 28 films of this collection are actuality motion pictures from the Paper Print Collection of the Library of Congress.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington

Daniel Epstein is a poet, dramatist and biographer with 12 books in print. Epstein has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and Prix de Rome from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Library of Congress holds the nation's largest public collection of sound recordings (music and spoken word) and radio broadcasts, some 3 million recordings in all.

After the Day of Infamy: "Man-on-the-Street" Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor

After the Day of Infamy: "Man-on-the-Street" Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor presents approximately twelve hours of opinions recorded in the days and months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor from more than two hundred individuals in cities and towns across the United States.

Selected highlight from this collection:

Band Music from the Civil War Era

On September 27, 1974, the Music Division of the Library of Congress re-created a typical concert of brass band and vocal music from mid-nineteenth-century America. That concert has become the starting-point for Band Music from the Civil War Era, an online collection that brings together musical scores, recordings, photographs, and essays documenting an important but insufficiently explored part of the American musical past.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1870 to 1885

This collection consists of over 47,000 pieces of sheet music registered for copyright during the years 1870 to 1885. Included are popular songs, piano music, sacred and secular choral music, solo instrumental music, method books and instructional materials, and music for band and orchestra.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes: