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Welcome to Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections


This site contains descriptions and inventories of the archival collections held by Boston Public Library and the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center.

What are archives?

An archival collection is a group of related materials that documents the activities of an individual, family, or organization. BPL archives include personal papers, records of local businesses and organizations, and subject-based collections, as well as the library’s institutional records. Archives at BPL are described in finding aids, which include essential information about the creation, content, arrangement, and context of these collections. Learn more about archives and finding aids on our Help page.

Finding other rare, historic, and special collections at the BPL

Rare books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, prints, drawings, music, and fine art are described in the research catalog or in BPL’s digitized card catalogs. Thousands of digitized objects are also available on Digital Commonwealth and Internet Archive. Leventhal Map Center collections are discoverable through the Center’s website.

Boston Public Library special collections are available for the study and enjoyment of all.

What is included?

We are in the process of adding collection descriptions to this catalog as only a portion of BPL archival collections are currently represented here. BPL’s finding aids have evolved over time in a range of formats; we are actively working to create more complete, equitable, and accessible collection descriptions.

Requesting materials

Please note that the Special Collections Reading Room is currently closed for renovations until 2022. Until then, collections are unavailable for in-person research.

Collections at the Leventhal Map & Education Center are available for access. Please contact the department to make a research appointment.

Contact us

BPL Special Collections staff are always happy to connect. For questions about our collections, help navigating BPL finding aids, or to suggest changes to our descriptions, you can contact us directly.

Boston Public Library finding aid description, metadata, and descriptions of persons, families, and organizations are licensed under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. Read more.