Visiting the Library

The Massachusetts Historical Society's library operates differently than most public or university libraries. While we strive to provide researchers with access to the contents of all our collections, the preservation of our unique materials is our primary concern. To that end, we enforce strict security protocols. Explore the pages in this section in order to become familiar with library policies and procedures so that you can make the most of your visit to the library.  

What to Expect

Prepare for your first visit by learning about Portal1791 (our online request system), the researcher registration process, how to request materials, and basic security policies.

What to Bring

Learn what personal materials are allowed into the library and what materials the MHS provides for researchers.

How to Prepare

Find advice on where to begin your research, how to search the MHS catalogs, and how much time you will need to complete your research. 

Upcoming Events

Early American History Seminar

Panel: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Friends

2May 5:15PM 2017

Gould’s essay, “Hawthorne and the State of War,” reads the under-studied travel memoir Our Old Home (1863) as a meditation on the important—and, ...

Brown Bag

Politics of Civil War Governance: A Conversation about Lincoln and his Loyal Governors during the ...

3May 12:00PM 2017

Engle will discuss his most recent book, Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union’s War Governors (2016) and how it led to his current project, a ...

Cooking Boston

Cooking Boston: Where to Go

3May 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

Cooking Boston: Where to Go This series of programs explores the culinary history of Boston and the impact the city has had on the American diet. In the first half of ...

From our Blog

Reference Man in Catalog Land : Describing publications in the George ...

We here in the Library Reader Services department at the MHS concern ourselves with the user/researcher side of our collections. This job allows us to continually sharpen the skills of reference ...

“Legible only to myself”: John Quincy Adams’s Shorthand

A line in John Quincy Adams’s 1788 diary is the earliest example of his use of English poet John Byrom’s shorthand system. The system replaces words with symbols to make writing faster and ...

Read more from our blog

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