Guide to the Research Collections



Since the establishment of the Manuscript and Archival Division in 1914, when the manuscript accumulations of the Astor and Lenox Libraries and the Tilden collection were assembled in a separate area of the new Central Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the determinant for the inclusion of materials has been that they be handwritten rather than printed. The typewriter, when used by the author or writer, has been accepted as the modern substitute for the pen and pencil. In general the Manuscripts and Archives Division, as it is now designated, follows the overall acquisition and collecting policies of the Research Libraries which specify that an effort should be made to add materials having relevance to areas where the resources are already strong. In fields where other institutions or agencies pursue an active collecting policy, the Research Libraries gather only complementary collections.

The collections of the Manuscripts and Archives Division may be divided into three major groupings: personal papers and records; records of organizations; and manuscripts, autograph collections, and small collections of unpublished papers. Each of these involves a different approach to collecting.

Personal papers and records of an individual in public life, or family records, are selectively acquired. The relevance of such papers to the study of the New York metropolitan area, and their interest from personal, sociological, and historical points of view are considered, as well as any connection that may exist with materials already in the collections. The papers of private figures of importance offered for sale rather than as gifts are considered not only with regard to their intrinsic quality and suitability for the collections, but also in relation to the availability of funds.

Records of organizations, including business enterprises, societies, and other agencies, are now acquired on a limited basis for organizations in the New York area. Those which are added to the holdings constitute a sample, covering activities and interests already represented. In the area of publishing, for example, the recent acquisition of the archives of the Macmillan Company supports the library's extensive literary holdings, and the acquisition of the minutes of the New York Typographical Union No. 6 strengthens the library's resources in materials relating to printing technology, the printing industry, and trade unionism and economics. Records of business enterprises are accepted only if they illustrate various types of commercial activity in the region, especially from a retrospective viewpoint. In the fields of the performing and fine arts, the library attempts to secure representative records of creators, performers, commercial enterprises, trade unions, and associations which have been important in the development of the artistic life of the community. Government records in their original form are not collected by the Research Libraries, as it is felt that national, state, and municipal archives are the proper stewards of such papers.

The principles governing the acquisition of personal papers and records and the records of organizations are generally applicable to single manuscripts and small collections of unpublished papers. For these categories, however, the Research Libraries attempts to secure significant material regardless of geographical area, especially material related to subject collections of special strength.