Descriptions of Our Collections

The Massachusetts Historical Society primarily collects manuscripts—the letters, diaries, and other personal papers of individuals and families. The Society holds many famous documents such as Paul Revere's own account of his famous ride and manuscript copies of the Declaration of Independence by both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.  However, the true strength of the collection lies in how millions of pages of documents weave together as primary sources for the study of American history.

In addition to manuscripts, the Society holds large collections of books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, and photographs, as well as works of art and historical artifacts that support research in the library collections. 

Manuscripts

The Manuscript Collection consists of more than 3,600 separate collections of personal and family papers and, to a lesser extent, institutional and early business records that date from the beginning of European settlement to the present.

Photographs

The Photograph Collection consists of approximately 120,000 images that span the development of photographic technology, including hundreds of daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes, glass-plate negatives, and carte-de-visite portraits of individuals and family groups.

Books and Pamphlets

Books and pamphlets printed through 1821, including a large number of 17th-century Massachusetts imprints and many early foreign publications, and broadsides and newspapers, comprise the Early Imprint Collection.  The collection also includes modern reference materials, biographies, and pamphlets.

Broadsides

The Society holds more than 10,000 broadsides--single sheets of paper printed on one side that served as the primary tool for public announcements.

Maps

The Map Collection consists of approximately 2,500 maps and charts that illustrate the history and development of the United States.

Graphics

The Society's collection of graphics consists of approximately 4,000 portrait prints and drawings, 230 silhouettes, and 2,000 images of historical events.

Newspapers

The Newspaper Collection contains 300 titles, ranging from single issues of American and foreign newspapers to extensive runs of early Boston papers.

Works of Art

The MHS Art Collection includes 380 portrait paintings, 67 city- and landscapes, 165 miniature portraits, and 52 sculptures.

Artifacts

The Historical Artifact Collection, including more than 7,000 numismatics (coins, medals, and paper currency) are available to researchers as part of the library collection. 


Upcoming Events

Conversation

Begin at the Beginning: Slavery in Early Boston

25Mar 1:00PM 2017

"Slavery in Early Boston" is the first of three Partnership of Historic Bostons discussions this spring about slavery and servitude in early Massachusetts.  This ...

The Irish Atlantic

The Mission of the Jamestown

27Mar 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

The Irish Atlantic Series As news of the Irish Famine made its way across the Atlantic, the citizens of Boston rallied to help. In 1847, a relief mission was organized ...

Modern American Society and Culture Seminar; The Irish Atlantic

Moving News, Affecting Relief: The Irish Famine’s Trans-Atlantic Circulations

28Mar 5:15PM 2017

The ships that carried Irish famine victims across the Atlantic also carried tragic accounts of those left behind; in response, North Americans sent millions of dollars ...

From our Blog

Gertrude Codman Carter’s Diary, March 1917

Today we return to the 1917 diary of Gertrude Codman Carter. You may read the previous entries here: Introduction | January | February All but the last page of March 1917 is sliced out of the diary; ...

Women and Organized Labor in Early 20th-Century Boston

According to Tom Juravich, William F. Hartford, and James R. Green, authors of Commonwealth of Toil: Chapters in the History of Massachusetts Workers and their Unions (University of ...

Read more from our blog

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