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Washington, D.C., History Resources

A guide to the local history resources available on the District of Columbia.

D.C. Public Library

The D.C. Public Library has 26 locations that provides D.C. residents access to print books, audio books, music C.D.s, DVDs, electronic resources, adult education, and reading programs. Georgetown students can register for a library card and receive full borrowing privileges. The card catalogue is available here an advanced search function.

The People’s Archive -- Special Collections

Since 1905, the D.C. Public Library has been collecting rare books, serial publications, photographs, government documents, maps, and community publications such as high school yearbooks that document city residents. In 2020, the Library created the People's Archive which consolidates three departments: the Black Studies and Washingtoniana collections both located at the central branch, the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, and the Peabody Room located at Georgetown Library.

Search for materials, particularly rare books, in the card catalog. Specify the Library “People’s Archive” in the Advanced Search.

Digital Collections

The D.C. Community Archives, founded in 1987, has become a major repository documenting political and social movements since the introduction of home rule in the District in 1974. It has collected papers of D.C. activists and politicians, citizens’ and neighborhood associations, conducted oral history projects, and established initiatives aimed at documenting under documented groups such as Latinos and LGBTQ people. It is possible to search finding aids for collections held at MLK Library and the Peabody Room at the Georgetown Library by title and by subject.

Dig DC is the online repository for The People’s Archive that includes  historical photographs, ephemera, political posters, maps, and newspapers such as The Washington Blade (1969-1989) and The Unicorn Times (1973-1985). In addition, the DCPL has created several collections, the result of collecting initiatives such as the Latino Youth Community History Project and the D.C. Punk Archive. For all collections, see this page.

Electronic Databases

A library card entitles users to access the databases owned by the DCPL. It has subscribed to several sources that are not available to the Georgetown community. Several of its databases are only accessible within one of its branches. A full list of databases is here.

The databases include Ancestry Library edition and HeritageQuest. To accommodate users during the pandemic, users can access these databases from any location.

Visitor's Information

Georgetown students can register for a library card for borrowing privileges for print materials and access to all the electronic databases owned by the Library. Some databases can be accessed only by visiting a branch. 

If you are interested in any one of the three departments of the People's Archive, it is advised that you contact the repository to confirm the hours and the availability of sources.

  • The People's Archive --; 202-727-1213


  • Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW
  • Georgetown Library, 3260 R St., NW

D.C. Archives

D.C. Archives is part of the Office of Public Records and makes accessible the historical records held by the District of Columbia. Established in 1986, the D.C. Archives agreed to take records of the District of Columbia from the National Archives. Because of persistent management problems and the condition of the D.C. Archives facility, the National Archives suspended the transfers of its materials. As a result, the court records of the District of Columbia are split between the D.C. Archives and the National Archives. 

The genealogical records held at the D.C. Archives include:

  • Birth records (1874-1895)
  • Death certificates (1874-1945)
  • Marriage certificates (1870-1920)
  • Wills and probate records (1801-1999)
  • Indentures of Apprenticeship records (1812-1893)
  • Guardianships and Administrative Bonds records  (1862-1939)

Other historical records include:

  • Reports of the Board of Commissioners (1874-1960)
  • Articles of Incorporation (1870-1957)
  • Construction building permits and technical drawings (1949-1995)
  • Recorder of deeds land transaction records (1797-1930)
  • Engineering Commission (ED) records (1898-1955)
  • Board of Health Minutes (1822-1878)
  • Board of Architects Minutes (1925-1989)
  • DC Jail committal records (1850-1934)
  • Records of the Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (Control Board)

Visitors Information

Appointments are required for access to the records. Land records are available only on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Email or call 202-671-1105.

Location: 1300 Naylor Court, NW

Other Municipal Repositories

D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) Historic Collections

Once haphazardly stored in 300 boxes, the maps, photographic images and documents that comprise this collection are in the process of being organized and made accessible. The DDOT Library is open to researchers by appointment. 

Location: 250 M Street, S.E.

Contact Information

  • 202-478-9122

D.C. Office of Planning

Responsible for planning long-term growth of the city, this office includes two offices that generate historical resources that can be used to understand the historical development of the District of Columbia: The Office of Historic Preservation and the Office of Archaeology.

Location: 1100 4th Street, S.W. Suite 650 East

Contact Information

  • 202-442-7600

Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives

Built in 1872 as the first public school for Black teachers in the District of Columbia, the Sumner School is now a museum, conference center, and repository for the Archives of the D.C. Public School System.

Location: 1201 17th Street, NW

Contact Information

  • 202-730-0478

D.C. History Center

The Kiplinger Research Library of the D.C. History Center is a non-circulating, special collections library first established in 1894 that has preserved a rich collection of photographic images, ephemera, maps, works of art on paper, oral histories, and manuscript collections. The Library is especially well known for its documentation of the built environment and neighborhoods of the District, supported by a collection of approximately 100,000 images catalogued to support such research. In addition, the Library has collected papers that document Washington business, heritage collections bringing together the papers of several ethnic communities, and the papers of 20th century elite Washingtonians.

Online Catalogue

The Kiplinger has an online catalogue to give researchers access to finding aids and catalogue records. Digital items are also searchable using this catalogue. Researchers should be advised that a small number of items are digitized relative to their holdings as a whole. It is also possible to search collections by using geographic locators such as neighborhood, quadrant, street name, street number, and square as search terms. 

About the D.C. History Center

The D.C. History Center was founded in 1894 as the Columbia Historical Society; in 1989 it was re-named the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The organization still retains that name as its legal name, but it is has adopted the D.C. History Center as its name within the broader community. It is the publisher of Washington History (successor to the Records of Columbia Historical Society) which are available to Georgetown students via JStor.

Visitors' Information

  • For reference queries, email Please be advised of limitations on reference consultations as described here
  • It is advised that researchers contact the repository for an appointment before visiting. 

Location: 801 K Street, N.W.

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