The Washingtoniana Collection

The Washingtoniana Collection

In Special Collections


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The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is closed for a three-year, major modernization. Beginning May 9, Washingtoniana materials will be available by appointment at Special Collections' interim locations at the Historical Society of Washington and the Library of Congress. For more information, visit the Special Collections Interim Access & Services page

The majority of the Washingtoniana reference collections, including photos and vertical files, are available by appointment. Appointments may be scheduled Tuesday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 12:30 pm and 1:30 - 4 p.m., and one Saturday per month. 

Please contact Special Collections to schedule an appointment:

801 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
wash.dcpl@dc.gov
202-727-1213
 

About

The Washingtoniana Collection was established in 1905 when Library Director, Dr. George F. Bowerman, had the foresight to start collecting books and articles about the local community. Washingtoniana houses an array of resources and materials from the late 18th Century to the present, with a primary focus on the local city. In addition to the resources below, the Washingtoniana Collection includes Prints and Photographs and the DC Community Archives. 

During the MLK Library modernization, the majority of Washingtoniana resources and reference staff are co-locating with the Historical Society of Washington, DC. Special Collections' interim location is in the historic Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square, DC Public Library's old central library and original home of Washingtoniana. 

Resources in Washingtoniana

Books | Census | Directories | Genealogy and Family History | D.C. Government Documents and Legal Materials | Maps | Newspapers and Periodicals | Postcards | Real Estate | Vertical Files | Yearbooks | Finding Aids and Bibliographies | Note on 19th Century Jurisdictions 

Books
Washingtoniana holds more than 25,000 books and other printed materials, covering all subjects related to the District of Columbia -- social, legal, political and historical. Collection strengths include city planning, politics, architecture, history and biography. Approximately 25 percent of the book collection is available at the Carnegie Library interim location. These titles can be accessed through the online catalog. Please note that Washingtoniana books duplicated by the Historical Society of Washington are currently in storage and may be accessed through the Historical Society's online catalog

The separate Cutter Collection, consisting of rare and unique late 18th to mid-20th Century materials, is currently undergoing cataloging and preservation off-site. As these titles are cataloged and made accessible, unique items will become available at the Carnegie Library. 

Census
Statistics from the federal decennial census, 1800 to 1880 (partial 1790 census; 1890 census burned) and from 1900-2000 are available. Some materials are in the form of microfilm and some are printed materials. Also available are census documents from the D.C. Office of Planning. The U.S. Census is searchable through the DC Public Library website with a library card through the Heritage Quest database. Selected District of Columbia Census materials are currently available at the Carnegie Library.

Directories
Various directories are housed in the division, including city directories from 1822 to 1973, telephone directories from 1907 to present, and cross reference directories from 1975 to the present. The majority of directories are on microfilm and microfiche. All directories are accessible at the Carnegie Library.

Genealogy and Family History
Visit our Genealogy Resources page for a comprehensive list of resources including census data, city directories, published cemetery records and more. The majority of genealogy and cemetery resources are available at the Carnegie Library.

D.C. Government Documents and Legal Materials
D.C. government documents include the latest as well as historical editions of the D.C. Code, D.C. Municipal Regulations, the D.C. Register and the budget of the District of Columbia. Please note: The latest updated D.C. Code and the latest D.C. Municipal Regulations and D.C. Register can be found online. Also included are federal government documents relating to the District, from 1790 to the present. The Washingtoniana collection does not support extensive case law research. Therefore, the majority of the collection's legal and government materials are in storage during the MLK Library modernization. Please see the Special Collections Interim Access & Services page for referrals to local repositories of legal information. Historic codes and regulations are available at the Carnegie Library.

Maps
There are more than 8,000 maps (print and microfiche) from 1612 to the present. These include a set of D.C. real estate atlases (print and microfilm) from 1877 to 1965 and Sanborn Fire Insurance maps up through 1999. Selected real estate atlases and individual printed maps have been digitized and are available on Dig DC. The bulk of the map collection is in storage during the MLK Library modernization. Duplicate plat maps, maps on microfilm, and maps on microfiche are available in the Carnegie Library. Please see the Washingtoniana Map Collection page for more details. 

Newspapers and Periodicals
A list of Washingtoniana's periodicals holdings is available online. Microfilm of all the major D.C. daily newspapers from 1800 through the end of 2011 are available in the Carnegie Library. Please note that several papers may be accessed electronically through the library website with your library card. They include The Evening Star (1852-1981), The Washington Post (1877-present), The Washington Times (1990-present) and The Washington Afro-American (1989-present; found in the Ethnic NewsWatch database as the Afro-American Red Star).

Print editions include Washington, D.C.-focused publications, including local African American publications. Complete runs of many D.C. newspaper, journal and magazine titles from 1800 to the present are available. Print periodicals are stored off-site during the MLK Library modernization, but may be paged to the Library of Congress by request. To request materials and schedule an appointment for viewing, please email archives.dcpl@dc.gov or call 202-727-2272. 

Postcards
Consisting of 2,000 postcards, this collection documents both federal and hometown Washington. Arranged by topic, the collection’s value lies in documenting images found perhaps nowhere else. The Willard R. Ross Postcard Collection is now available online at Dig DC. 

Real Estate
Washingtoniana holds a complete run of real estate assessments from 1886 to 2011. We also have building permits on microfilm from 1877 to 1949 (and a microfilm building permit index for 1950 through 1958). A building permits database, now available online at HistoryQuest DC, summarizes information from the “Permit to Build," including the date of construction, architect, builder, owner and dimensions. All permits and assessments are available on microfilm at the Carnegie Library.

Vertical Files

Vertical files are news clippings, brochures, pamphlets and other documents placed in folders based on subject headings. Examples of the headings include Residential Sections, Politics and Government, Colleges and Universities and Biographies, to name a few. As with the book collection, the files cover all subjects related to the District of Columbia: social, economic, cultural, recreational, political and historical. A Vertical File Subject Index is online and held at the desk to assist customers with their search. All vertical files, with the exception of biographical files, are available at the Carnegie Library.

Yearbooks

A small collection of District of Columbia high school and college yearbooks are housed in the reading room. Please check the Yearbook Index online for a list of holdings. We do not have every high school nor do we have every year of the schools within our collection. If you have and wish to donate yearbooks, or know of others who may, please contact us at archives.dcpl@dc.gov. All yearbooks are stored off-site during the MLK Library modernization, but may be paged to the Library of Congress by request. To request materials and schedule an appointment for viewing, please email archives.dcpl@dc.gov or call 202-727-2272. 

Finding Aids and Bibliographies

Finding aids and bibliographies are available to help navigate the collections and research certain topics. They include: Note on 19th Century Jurisdictions
In the 19th Century, D.C. was divided into three jurisdictions, Washington City, Washington County and Georgetown. Washington County included everything above Boundary Street (now Florida Avenue) and across the Anacostia River. Until 1908, property in the county was identified by subdivision (similar to a neighborhood name) and lot number rather than square and lot number.

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Updated 4/17