Washingtoniana Collection

Washingtoniana Collection

In the People's Archive


The Washingtoniana Collection was established in 1905 when Library Director, Dr. George F. Bowerman, started 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. The Washingtoniana Collection includes the DC Community Archives. It is a reference collection, meaning the materials are not available for check out.

Resources in Washingtoniana

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

Washingtoniana holds more than 25,000 books, covering all subjects related to the District of Columbia - social, legal, political and historical. Collection strengths include city planning, politics, architecture, history, and biography. Many titles can be searched through the online catalog. Narrow your search by checking "Washingtoniana" as the Library. 

The Cutter Collection, consisting of rare and unique late 18th to mid-20th Century materials, is currently undergoing cataloging and preservation.

Statistics from the federal decennial census, 1800 to 1880 (partial 1790 census; 1890 census burned) and from 1900-2000 are available. Some statistics are on microfilm and some are printed materials, including census documents from the D.C. Office of Planning. The U.S. Census is searchable with a library card through Heritage Quest

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. 

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. 

D.C. Government Documents and Legal Materials
D.C. government documents include the D.C. Code, D.C. Municipal Regulations, the D.C. Register and the budget of the District of Columbia. Please note: the most recent D.C. CodeD.C. Municipal Regulations, and D.C. Register can be found online. Our collection also includes federal government documents relating to the District from 1790 to the present.

Please note the Washingtoniana Collection does not support extensive case law research. 

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. Please see the Washingtoniana Map Collection page for more details. 

Newspapers and Periodicals
A list of Washingtoniana's periodicals holdings is available online. Several local newspapers may be accessed electronically. Print editions include Washington, D.C. focused publications, including local African American publications.  

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. 

Prints and Photographs
Our prints and photographs comprise over one million images over more than two dozen archival collections. Please see guides for our photograph collections for more details. 

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. Permits and assessments are available on microfilm.

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. View the vertical file subjects in the finding aid.


A small collection of District of Columbia high school and college yearbooks are available. Please check the Yearbook Index for a list of holdings. We do not have every high school nor do we have every year of the schools within our collection. Please contact us if you wish you donate local yearbooks.

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 11/21