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Primary sources: a guide for historians

Guides to libraries & archives worldwide

  • Archive Finder
    Contains the entire holdings in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC). Current directory of 5,500 repositories and 141,178 collections of primary source materials across the United States.
  • ArchiveGrid
    Index to finding aids and other descriptive information about the holdings of manuscript and archival collections in libraries and research institutions throughout the world.
  • Repositories of Primary Sources
    Listing of over 5500 websites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources for research .
  • List of national and state libraries

Finding printed and online guides for libraries and archives

Once you have identified a likely archive or library, it's helpful to locate a guide or inventory of the collection(s). While more and more archives have web sites and online catalogs, in some cases you will need to consult a printed guide.

  • Check the web site of the library or archive to see if they have online descriptions or inventories of their collections.
  • To find printed guides, search the library catalog for the name of the collection and the word catalogs

United States

  • Library of Congress
  • National Archives
    See Research at the National Archives for information on catalogs and finding aids. And consult the Guide to Federal Records OR the printed Guide to federal records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette with Anne B. Eales ... [et al.]. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995. Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR) CD3026 1995.
  • American National Biography
  • Records of the presidency: presidential papers and libraries from Washington to Reagan. Frank L. Schick, with Renee Schick and Mark Carroll. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1989.
    Firestone CD3029.82 .S35 1989
  • Guide to research collections of former United States senators, 1789-1995: a listing of archival repositories housing the papers of former senators, related collections, and oral history interviews. Karen Dawley Paul; Diane B. Boyle, editorial assistant. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1995.
    Princetoniana Collection (PRNCR) CD3043 .P39 1995
  • Articles describing archives and manuscript collections in the United States: an annotated bibliography. Compiled by Donald L. DeWitt. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997.
    Firestone Library: Non Circulating (Fnc) CD3022.A2 D478 1997
  • Directory of Corporate Archives in the United States and Canada
  • Archive Finder is a database of more than 5,000 repositories of primary source materials across the United States. Formerly known as ArchivesUSA. It has largely superseded the microfiche inventory listed below:
  • National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United States
    Firestone Microforms MICROFICHE 828


  • National Archives of Canada
  • Directory of archives. Ottawa, Ont.: Canadian Council of Archives, c1996-
    Firestone CD3620 .D57 (has 1996, 1999); current volume in Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR)

Europe (General)

United Kingdom

  • National Archives
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • British archives: a guide to archive resources in the United Kingdom. Editors, Janet Foster and Julia Sheppard; consultant editor. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgave, 2002.
    Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR) CD1040 .F67 2002
  • Public Record Office handbooks (e.g. The Second World War: a guide to documents in the Public Record Office. John D. Cantwell. Kew, Richmond, Surrey: Public Record Office, National Archives, c1998.)
    Do a keyword search in the Main Catalog for "public record office handbooks" to find them all.


  • National Library of Ireland
  • Directory of Irish archives. Edited by Seamus Helferty and Raymond Refaussé. Dublin: Four Courts, 2003.
    RECAP CD1101 .D57 2003


  • Bibliotheque Nationale
  • Archives Nationales
  • Les Archives nationales: état général des fonds. Publié sous la direction de Jean Favier. Paris: Archives nationales: [diffusé par la Documentation française], 1978-1980.
    Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR): CD1196 1978a
  • Archives and libraries in France: with 1991 supplement. Erwin K. Welsch.New York, N.Y.: Council for European Studies, 1991.
    Firestone Library: Non Circulating (Fnc) Z797.A1 W447 1991
  • Inventaire sommaire [a series of microfilm copies of unpublished inventories]
    RECAP 0445.358 [199 reels] and guide at FilmB CD1192.A5


  • Archives and libraries in a new Germany. Erwin K. Welsch and Jurgen Danyel, with Thomas Kilton. New York: Council for European Studies, 1994.
    Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR) CD1220.W447 1994
  • Archive: Archive im deutschsprachigen Raum. Berlin, New York, de Gruyter, 1974.
    Firestone Library: Non Circulating (Fnc) CD1000.A72 1974


  • Archives of Russia: a directory and bibliographic guide to holdings in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Edited by Patricia Kennedy Grimsted; compiled by Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, Lada Vladimirovna Repulo, and Irina Vladimirovna Tunkina; with an introduction by Vladimir Petrovich Kozlov. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, c2000.
    Russian Studies Reading Room (SLAV): CD1710.A76 2000

Latin America

  • A handbook of Latin American & Caribbean national archives. Ann K. Nauman. Detroit, Mich.: Blaine Ethridge Books, c1983.
    RECAP CD3680.N38 1983
  • Guide to materials on Latin America in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by George S. Ulibarri and John P. Harrison. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1987. Firestone Library (F) CD3028.L37 U547