Guide to the Research Collections



This is, on the whole, a very strong collection covering telegraph, radio, telephone, pneumatic tubes, and other methods of communication, and television and radio in both their economic and social aspects. The collecting policy is generally comprehensive; a number of exceptions are noted in the following discussion. The holdings are divided between the economic and social aspects of communication, held in the general collections; and the technical aspects, located in the Science and Technology Research Center.

Excellent collections of books and pamphlets cover the economic and social aspects of the subject for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Other features include extensive files of periodicals and journals, and a large collection of government reports, particularly of bureaus of communication, from virtually every country in the world. Files are not always complete but in most cases are extensive. The publications of the International Telecommunication Bureau, Bern (before October 1, 1947, the International Telegraph Bureau, Bern) are virtually complete.

The technical literature is also strong, both in older and current works; works on lasers, microwaves, radar, and other modern aspects of the subject are present, as are works on the telegraph and early radio. The library has gathered a noteworthy collection on the laying of the first Atlantic cable. Bibliographic works are actively collected when available.

As is the case with many subjects, various classes of material in the Research Libraries contribute to the communications holdings. Radio and television as entertainment are excellently covered in the Theatre Collection of the library's Performing Arts Research Center at Lincoln Center. The Picture Collection of the Branch Libraries provides extensive pictorial documentation in the field. Additional coverage appears in the library's legal and public document resources.

Postal Service

Only bibliography and history of the subject are collected comprehensively; this is, however, a generally adequate section with a variety of materials--books, pamphlets, and a good selection of periodicals. Among those materials relating strictly to postal service, the reports of national post office departments are unusually strong, and postal guides are numerous. To supplement its historical works the library indexes important magazine articles, particularly those on early postal service; this indexing is not so extensive as it previously was because of the number and excellence of standard commercial indexing services.

Materials on philately form an adequate if not strong collection. There is an extensive group of philatelic periodicals and journals, but many of the files are incomplete. Stamp catalogs and handbooks of stamp collecting are numerous and the subject is kept up to date with current publications.

The library does not collect postage stamps but has retained gifts received in previous years. The Miller collection of United States stamps is considered to be one of the outstanding collections of its kind in the country. Benjamin Kurtz Miller of Minneapolis donated his collection to the library in 1925 and until his death in 1928 continued to increase its scope. The collection covers the period 1845 to 1926 and is on permanent display in the Fifth Avenue lobby of the Central Building.7 In the Manuscripts and Archives Division are the account books and notebooks of Benjamin Miller giving the description, source, and price paid for the various items in his collection, with other items relating to postal service, including way-bills of the California and Oregon United States Mail Line operated by the Oregon State Company during 1866 and 1867.

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