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The General Collections



Starting Places
Secondary Sources
arrow graphicMicroform Materials
Doctoral Dissertations
Congressional Documents
Indexes to Anthologies
Biographical Sources
Women's Writings
Other Sources




Microform Materials

When researching any topic at the Library of Congress, ask a reference librarian for help in identifying microform collections on your subject. Examples of almost every type of material mentioned in this discussion of the General Collections also exist in microform.

Microforms are found in most reading rooms, but the largest gathering is in the Microform Reading Room. Treasures abound, and the two keys to this richness are reference librarians and A Guide to the Microform Collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences Division of the Library of Congress (available online and in print). This guide is an alphabetical list with brief annotations of most collections held in the Microform Reading Room. Its index provides subject access to collections that often lack subject headings in the online catalog.

see caption below

These U.S. Army nurses are part of the first medical group to be Russia, [ca. 1947]. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-124463 (b&w film copy neg.)

bibliographic record

It is impossible to mention all titles that might assist a women's history researcher, but there are large collections on

  • nursing
  • witchcraft
  • slavery
  • religion
  • labor unions
  • missionaries
  • statistics
  • social welfare journals
  • pamphlets in American history and in women's history
  • dime novels
  • Massachusetts vital records
  • congressional documents (see section “Congressional Documents”)
  • dissertations
  • oral histories
Some are large collections acquired by the Library; others are individual book and serial titles, often filmed for preservation purposes.

Two major sets for historians are:

  • History of Women (1,248 reels; New Haven, Conn.: Research Publications, 1975-79; Microfilm 51565; MicRR guide no. 47) [catalog record], a collection of more than ten thousand books and periodicals published before 1920 by and about women
  • The Gerritsen Collection of Women's History (17,556 microfiche and 241 reels; Glen Rock, N.J.: Microfilming Corp. of America, 1975; Microfiche (w) 82/12 [catalog record]; MicRR guide no. HQ1121.G43 1983 [catalog record], MRR Alc), which consists of more than forty-five hundred European and American books, periodicals, and pamphlets published between 1543 and 1945.
Both collections reproduce complete runs of the Woman's Journal (Boston, 1870-1931), among other U.S. and foreign women's serial titles. Records for individual journal titles from these two sets appear in the online catalog. History of Women also has eight hundred reproductions of photographs and some manuscripts.

Because books and serials published before 1801 are kept in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, many works on colonial American women must be consulted there. The Microform Reading Room, however, holds Early American Imprints,3 two microform sets of most books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed in the United States between 1639 and 1819. These include many works by and about women from those early years, and they can be easily photocopied. More than 40 percent of the titles can be viewed in print copies in the Rare Book Reading Room.

It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that there are marvelous unanticipated treats for historians of women (or any other subject) among the millions of frames in the Microform Reading Room. One collection reproduces several dozen photographs depicting Anglo and Hispanic American women in New Mexico between 1890 and 1924 [catalog record]. Another has more than sixty filmed works about the Salem witchcraft trials with descriptions of women's multiple roles in those events and accounts of individual trials [catalog record].

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The online version of A Guide to the Microform Collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences Division of the Library of Congress (Washington: Library of Congress) is updated regularly at < >. For collections cataloged before 1996, consult the print version in most reading rooms: Z1033.M5 L53 1996 [catalog record].

There is limited subject access for microform collections in the online catalog, and no online record exists for most individual items within such collections.

Most guides to individual Microform Reading Room collections are shelved in the Main Reading Room reference-desk area.

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