Visiting the Library

The Massachusetts Historical Society's library operates differently than most public or university libraries. While we strive to provide researchers with access to the contents of all our collections, the preservation of our unique materials is our primary concern. To that end, we enforce strict security protocols. Explore the pages in this section in order to become familiar with library policies and procedures so that you can make the most of your visit to the library.  

What to Expect

Prepare for your first visit by learning about Portal1791 (our online request system), the researcher registration process, how to request materials, and basic security policies.

What to Bring

Learn what personal materials are allowed into the library and what materials the MHS provides for researchers.

How to Prepare

Find advice on where to begin your research, how to search the MHS catalogs, and how much time you will need to complete your research. 

Upcoming Events

Environmental History Seminar

The Fight before the Flood: Rural Protest and the Debate over Boston’s Quabbin Reservoir, 1919 ...

16Jan 5:15PM 2018

In 1919, state engineers proposed solving Boston’s water supply crisis by damming the Swift River, flooding a western Massachusetts valley and evicting 2,500 ...

Brown Bag

Skulls, Selves, and Showmanship: Itinerant Phrenologists in 19th-Century America

17Jan 12:00PM 2018

"Come, then, one and all, and learn to know yourselves." With these words, a traveling phrenologist advertised his lecture to the public. Proponents of phrenology ...

Author Talk

Pauline Maier Memorial Lecture - Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention

17Jan 6:00PM 2018
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

James Madison’s Notes on the 1787 Constitutional Convention have acquired nearly unquestioned authority as the description of the U.S. Constitution’s creation ...

From our Blog

This Week @ MHS

First things first in this weekly round-up: The Society is CLOSED on Monday, 15 January, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Normal hours resume on Tuesday, 16 January. Now that we have ...

A Midwinter’s Tale

  At eight o-clock on a January morning in 1891, and a world away from the ice-caked streets of his native New England, 52-year-old Henry Adams leisurely began to go about his day. Armed with ...

Read more from our blog

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