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Washington, D.C. in the Manuscript Reading Room

General Search Tips

When searching for materials related to Washington, D.C. history in the Library's Online Catalog and in other repositories, there are several strategies and to keep in mind.

  • Try variations of the city's name. Different catalog records may utilize different forms, including:
    "Washington", "Washington, D.C.", "District of Columbia", "D.C.", "Washington DC", or "Washington District of Columbia"
  • When searching for specific homes or historic buildings, remember that street names have changed over the years. Try searching for nearby locations, neighborhoods, or prominent landmarks to help you, especially for image and map research.
  • Knowing names of prominent persons and companies from the period of your research may help you find relevant collections.
  • Remember that material related to the D.C. area often includes northern Virginia and Maryland (also known as the DMV), so some results may be listed as "Arlington," "Bethesda," etc. when there is also related material about the District
  • When thinking about the geography of D.C., remember that the District is split into quadrants. These may be spelled out (Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, Southwest), or abbreviated with or without punctuation (N.E., S.E., N.W., S.W. versus NE, SE, NW, SW).

Using Library of Congress Subject Headings

Authorized subject headings can be useful when searching in online catalogs. Subject headings include standardized topics, names, places, titles, and forms/genres of material. Select any of the subject headings below to perform searches in the Library's Online Catalog.

Tips for Searching the Library of Congress Online Catalog

When searching in the Library of Congress Online Catalog, you can confine your search results to materials held by the Manuscript Division using "advanced search" (see screenshot below).

Screen shot of Library of Congress catalog page showing how you can limit the location to the Manuscript Division 

Additional search tips for researching images of historic Washington, D.C. buildings can be found on the Prints and Photographs website: