During the renovation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in 2019, the departments formerly known as Washingtoniana and Black Studies were renamed The People's Archive. Read more about the history of our collections below.
Black Studies Collection
Black Studies is a reference book collection that documents the Black experience in the United States with an emphasis on civil rights and social justice. The Black Studies Division at DC Public Library was founded in 1972 and originally housed a circulating book collection.
The Peabody Room is a special collection of Georgetown neighborhood history, founded in 1935. It includes subject vertical files, photographs, maps, neighborhood microfilmed newspapers, paintings, engravings and artifacts. It also features a house history file for many homes in Georgetown. Finding aids for archival collections can be found here.
The Washingtoniana Collection was established in 1905 when Library Director, Dr. George F. Bowerman, started collecting books and articles about the local community. Washingtoniana has materials from the late 18th Century to the present. It is a reference collection, meaning the materials are not available for check out.
The D.C. Community Archives was established by the Washingtoniana Division in 1987. It contains personal papers, organization records, photographs and digital collections. Digitized materials from the archive can be found on DigDC. Learn more about searching archival collections.
A few of our most popular subjects and collections are highlighted below.
DC Oral History Collaborative
The DC Oral History Collaborative (DCOHC) was initiated in 2017 between DC Public Library and Humanities DC. DCOHC incorporates grant funding, trainings, coaching and other resources to help residents document, preserve, and celebrate the history of all DC communities. DCOHC Grants support oral history projects that explore Washington, DC’s life, history, and culture through interviews with the people who have lived it.
The oral histories are preserved in Dig DC. To date, nearly 400 narratives have been collected through DCOHC.
DC Punk Archive
The DC Punk Archive was established in 2014 to document the vibrant and influential punk music scene of Washington D.C. Punk is an aggressive form of rock music. The subject scope is intentionally broad, including punk and related local music between 1976-present, in order to capture both well-documented and lesser-known stories. The archive documents music and musicians as well as the cultural context of venues, festivals, record shops, radio stations, houses and tours that were a vital part of the D.C. scene.
The collection includes photographs, published materials (books, zines, and articles), sound and video recordings (vinyl records, tapes, CDs, live performances, demos, oral histories, and interviews), and ephemera (fliers, posters, set lists, letters, and tickets).
Go-Go is a style of funk that originated in D.C. in the 1970s. Known for heavy bass, driving percussion and call-and-response, the genre has become one of the most popular music forms in the city. In memory of Chuck Brown, the DC Public Library established a Go-Go Archive in 2012 to honor, preserve, teach and enjoy D.C.'s original music.
The Go-Go Archive captures both well-documented and lesser-known stories from organizations, record labels, venues, record shops, and artists. The Go-Go Archive contains photographs, books, magazines, records, cassettes, CDs and DVDs.
The Go-Go Archive is our only collection with funding available to pay for collections. Funding to support the Go-Go Archive comes from The People’s Plan for Go-Go.
Hans Kindler was the founder and conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra for its first eighteen seasons, from 1931 to 1949. His library of orchestral performance sets was donated to the DC Public Library in 1951. This special collection includes over 900 titles and is available for use, free of charge, by orchestras and ensembles in the Washington Metropolitan region. Contact us to learn more about using this collection.