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Guide to Digital Research in Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books: Archives Portal

How to conduct manuscripts, archives, and rare books research using the online resources of The New York Public Library

Searching the Portal

Most archival collections from across the Library's Research Divisions have detailed descriptions (also called "finding aids") available online through the Archives Portal:  These provide an idea of the collection's scope and contents, which help in determining its relevance to your research project.

In addition to keyword searching, you can use Boolean operators (AND, NOT, OR) to create complex searches, as well as quotation marks to look for exact phrases. Returns can be filtered by repository at left, and also by 50-year date span. 

Search results page

Not every collection is described to the same level of detail. Should the individual names you are seeking not garner any results, you may wish to also search for known correspondents or affiliated organizations. You will need to read the available description carefully in order to ascertain the potential presence of relevant materials.

Digitized Material

The Library is continuously digitizing its holdings for the use of its researchers.  For archival collections, this could be an entire collection, a series, or an individual document.  If digitized, an item's image(s) is linked to its description in the Archives Portal.

Collections with digitized components are indicated with a Digitized content symbolicon. You can see this icon next to a collection's name in a list of search results, or at the top of an opened collection guide. Or, you can browse recently-digitized content here

Alexander Hamilton search results excerpt

Links to images will be in one of two places:

  1. For single-document collections (e.g., journals, diaries), the file link will be on the "Overview" tab, under the header "Digital Assets."
  2. For collections with multiple boxes and folders, files will be linked on the "Detailed Description" tab, via a filmstrip icon next to each digitized folder. 

​Regardless of the link's location, you can click them to open a new window with the digitized images. You can browse through multi-page files using the arrows at the bottom of the window, and zoom in and out using the icons in the upper left-hand corner.  Or, right-click on the link to open in a new tab or window, which will take you to the Digital Collections page and options to download and print.

A Note About Digital Collections

All digitized files in the Archives Portal are also in Digital Collections, the Library's repository for digitized content across all of its research divisions. That being the case, you may be asking: why should I use this site instead?  The most important reason is that the Archives Portal displays the organization of a collection, both hierarchically and within its respective boxes and folders.  So, you can move through a collection in a way that most mirrors an in-person experience, as well as better understand how the collection’s creator grouped their records.