DC Public Library's Special Collections
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We are seeking stories from people who attended the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Go to our March on Washington page for more details.
Established in 1905, Washingtoniana is the largest Special Collection at the DC Public Library. It houses a comprehensive collection of material on Washington, D.C., from the late 18th century to the present, including the reference library, the photograph collections and the D.C. community archives.
The reference library includes:
- 25,000 books on Washington
- 8,000 local maps
- 25 million newspaper clippings from two major newspapers
- Microfilm of all major daily local newspapers, 1800-present
- Extensive vertical file collection
- Census information, 1800-present
- House history resources
- Genealogy resources
The Prints and Photographs collection includes:
- 1.3 million photographs from The Washington Star newspaper (1930s to 1981)
- The Washington Historical Image Collection, which includes photographs, engravings, drawings and other images from 1800 to the mid-twentieth century
Please read our guidelines for image reproductions and permissions. Using prints and photographs requires an appointment. Please call 202-727-5308 for more information.
The D.C. Community Archives contain:
- More than 150 archival collections from individuals and organizations that have played a significant role in the political, social and artistic history of the District of Columbia;
- The archives of the D.C. Library Association, the Special Libraries Association and the DC Public Library;
- Collections of the Oral History Research Center; and
- The Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archives (WAPAVA), videotapes of local theater productions.
The Black Studies Center
The Black Studies Center, established in 1972 along with the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, contains a wealth of information on the history, literature and culture of people of African descent, with a special focus on the United States. Primarily a monographic collection, it includes the Beatrice Murphy collection, the Sloan Williams collection and the Ira Reid collection. You can also find newspapers, periodicals and vertical file clippings as well as several important online resources, including:
Historic Black Newspapers: In Library | Home or Office
Full historic content of four major black newspapers: The Chicago Defender (1909-75), the New York Amsterdam News (1922-93), the Atlanta Daily World (1931-2003) and The Baltimore Afro-American (1893-1988).
African American Experience
Database of more than 4,000 slave narratives and 500 full-text reference and scholarly articles. It also includes primary documents, maps and images, lesson plans, searchable time lines and Web links.
African American Studies Center
Regarded as the most comprehensive online source on black life, history and culture, the center contains more than 5,000 bibliographies, 7,500 articles, and hundreds of maps, documents, images, time lines, websites and charts and tables.
Provides full-text coverage of more than 250 publications from the ethnic and minority press. It includes more than one million newspapers, magazine and journal articles dating back to 1990. Nearly one-quarter of the articles are presented in Spanish.
- The Black Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was a period during the 1920s and 1930s characterized by an outpouring of literature, music and art by blacks. It was a movement that embraced race and image building, progressive politics and freedom. On this website, read about the roles and contributions of Washingtonians to this rich social, cultural and intellectual national movement.
The Peabody Room
The Peabody Room is a special collection of Georgetown neighborhood history. It includes subject vertical files, photographs, maps, neighborhood microfilmed newspapers, paintings, engravings and artifacts that document various aspects of Georgetown life. It also features a house history file for nearly every home in Georgetown. Following a devastating 2007 fire that heavily damaged the Georgetown Neighborhood Library, a newly constructed, climate-controlled third floor (opened October 2010) now houses the Peabody Room. A number of materials were water-damaged during the fire and may not be publicly accessible. For further information contact Jerry McCoy at 202-727-0233, or email@example.com.
- Index to Account Ledger No. 2, C.[harles] B. Hunter, 1894-1896. Rare African-American Owned 19th Century Business Ledger.
- Memoranda Respecting Servants, Washington, D.C.; 1833-1847. Servants (slave and free) who worked in an unknown D.C. household 1833-1847.
The Children’s Illustrator Collection
The Children’s Illustrator Collection was established in 1919. This collection of approximately 40,000 finely illustrated children’s books is made up of trade editions of books that have been selected on the merit of their illustrations. Some are first editions, including some illustrated by well-known artists such as Randolph Caldecott and F.O.C. Darley, a mid–19th Century artist. Like all the other special collections, this is a reference-only collection. The collection includes books written or adapted for children, books about illustrations and illustrators, exhibit catalogs and descriptive publications.
The DC Public Library uses its extensive photograph and other collections to mount unique exhibits such as "Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington" and "Lincoln’s Washington." Special programs include an annual historical studies conference co-sponsored with other community organizations, local author talks and black history presentations.