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This guide is intended to scaffold student engagement with primary sources by offering research tips and resources for navigating libraries and archives, especially the collections at NYPL. Additionally, this guide aims to help students use research tools like card catalogs, databases, special collections, finding aids, and search engines. The ultimate goal of this guide is to help students independently discover and interpret sources to direct their own research.
First things first! Use the online application to apply for a library card. Having a library card gives New York residents access to NYPL digital resources like e-books and online databases, and allows you to make appointments and request materials in the Milstein Division.
Now you're ready to find materials in the library. The best access point to our collections is the Research Catalog. Search the additional catalogs available through NYPL Digital Collections and NYPL Archives and Manuscripts.
For help finding relevant materials and planning your visit, schedule a virtual consultation with a research librarian.
If you have identified a list of items you want to view at the library, you can request them in advance using this link.
In order to provide space for growing collections, the NYPL Research Libraries are housing materials at several offsite facilities. Material is identified in the research catalog by the location "OFFSITE – Request in advance"
There are four NYPL Research Libraries in total: The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (SASB); The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; the Science, Industry and Business Library. Material is identified in the research catalog by location, and while this guide mostly discusses resources available at The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the other research libraries may have relevant collections as well.
Other NYPL Divisions may have items in their collections pertinent to your American Revolution research:
The General Research Division serves as the central research hub in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The collections are primarily focused in the humanities and social sciences and include literary and scholarly works in over 380 languages with a global reach, from the United States to Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Along with authoritative and scholarly holdings, the library collects many popular, idiosyncratic, and ephemeral materials such as genre fiction, comic books, and pamphlets.
The Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture holds and provides access to books, serials, and microforms containing information by and about people of African descent throughout the world, concentrating on the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. Geographically, the collection emphasizes the Americas, the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division is one of the world’s premier map collections in terms of size, scope, unique holdings, diversity and intensity of use. Established in 1898, our holdings include more than 433,000 sheet maps and 20,000 books and atlases published between the 16th and 21st centuries. The collections range from the global to the local scale and support the learning and research needs of a wide variety of users.
Manuscripts and Archives Division holds over 29,000 linear feet of manuscripts and archives in over 5,500 collections. The strengths of the Division are the papers and records of individuals, families, and organizations, primarily from the New York region. These collections support research in the political, economic, social, and cultural history of New York and the United States.
The Print Collection of The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs encompasses a specialized reference collection of over 15,000 volumes on the history of prints and printmakers; artist clipping files; and a collection of close to 200,000 original prints, ranging from woodcuts, engravings, etchings, lithographs, and screenprints to digital prints, covering the history of the art in the West from the 15th century to the present, and Japanese prints from the 10th century to the present.
The Shared Collection is a joint initiative that combines the extensive research collections of The New York Public Library, Columbia University, Princeton University, and Harvard University—members of the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP)—in one catalog and allows patrons from all four institutions to search and request materials from these combined holdings for delivery to their home institution.
Through the catalog, users can discover nearly 11 million volumes from NYPL's research collections, plus an additional 8 million volumes from Columbia and Princeton. With the addition of Harvard's collections, users now have access to more than 22 million volumes.
NYPL also provides access to over 800 databases of scholarly and popular journals, which can be sorted by topic, including: