Reference Services

The Reader Services staff is available to answer questions regarding the Society’s holdings, to help with developing research strategies, and to provide reproduction services. The staff offers support to both researchers visiting the library (on-site reference) and researchers contacting the library from a distance (off-site reference). 

 Onsite Reference

Visitors to the library have direct access to our Reader Services staff, who assist all visiting researchers with questions regarding use of library resources, navigation of our catalogs and databases, reproduction of library materials, and requests for materials from offsite storage. 

  Offsite Reference

Researchers unable to visit the library in person can submit queries by email, postal mail, or telephone.  All queries are answered in the order received. Due to the large volume of queries we receive, it can take up to two weeks to receive an initial response from the Reader Services staff. 

The Reader Services staff provides access to library materials by directing researchers to online content, supplying reproductions, and when possible arranging inter-library loan and/or purchase of collections available on microfilm. The reference staff also can assist researchers with identifying collections of interest, developing research strategies, and in some cases identifying other repositories holding relevant material.

While the Reader Services staff strives to provide the best and most helpful information regarding research using the MHS collections, please note that we cannot survey collections or engage in original or genealogical research for patrons who cannot visit the society. 

For information regarding our reference reproduction policies and procedures, or purchasing microfilm and high resolution scans please see Reproductions Services.

Before contacting the reference staff please investigate our online catalog, ABIGAIL, and our online collection guides. These resources may lead you directly to information about collections containing material pertinent to your research.

Submitting Reference Questions by email, mail, or telephone

When submitting reference queries include your name and contact information, an explanation of your project or specific research interests, and a clear statement of your question(s) for the MHS staff.  It is also helpful to inform the staff about sources you have previously consulted (institutions, books, collections, websites, etc.) when appropriate. 

Address your questions to:

E-mail: library@masshist.org
Phone: (617) 646-0532
Fax: (617) 859-0074

Mail: Reference Librarian
Massachusetts Historical Society
1154 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02215

All reference queries are answered in the order they are received. Please note that the staff receives thousands of queries each year and it may take up to two weeks for the staff to respond to your query.

Upcoming Events

Brown Bag

“Watering of the Olive Plant”: Catechisms and Catechizing in Early New England

17Oct 12:00PM 2018

Early New Englanders produced and used an unusually large number of catechisms. These catechisms shaped relations of faith for church membership, provided content for ...

Author Talk

The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War

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

Joanne B. Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that the ...

African American History Seminar

Losing Laroche: The Story of the Titanic’s Only Black Passenger

18Oct 5:15PM 2018

Losing Laroche is the first in-depth study of the only black family on board the RMS Titanic. The story of the Haitian Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche and his ...

From our Blog

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In the Albert Gallatin Browne papers you will find a printed piece of paper entitled, "Hints to Soldiers on Health." These "Directions for Preservation of Health" give pointers to soldiers serving in ...

This Week @MHS

This week we have a pair of Brown Bag talks, two evening programs, the first seminar in a new series, and a sold out tour. Details below: - Monday, 15 October, 12:00 PM: Examining Land ...

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