This guide is intended to help Harvard students and faculty find archival and manuscript collections held at Harvard and elsewhere.For general historical sources see Library Research Guide for History to which there are several links in this guide.
Please feel free to email me with questions. We can make an appointment for you to come in, and we can talk at length about your project. Fred Burchsted, (email@example.com) Research Librarian and Liaison to the Department of History, Widener Library.
Many, but not all, archival and manuscript collections at Harvard have records in HOLLIS. A keyword search limited to manuscripts sometimes retrieves many Harvard theses and dissertations (which are labeled as being both book and manuscript format). These can be eliminated by limiting the results to archival collections using the Command Search in HOLLIS Classic. Use searches of the form: paleontology and wft=mx. More information on searching HOLLIS.
Many HOLLIS records for manuscript and archival collections have links to online inventories (finding aids) in another database called OASIS. Inventories usually consist of a list of folder labels and therefore offer a much more detailed description of collections than do HOLLIS records. All the OASIS entries can be searched globally on the OASIS web site (repository limitation available). Remember that by no means all harvard archival/manuscript collections have OASIS entries; many inventories must be consulted on paper.
For an in depth search for manuscripts at Harvard, you should talk with the librarians at the likely Harvard repositories for which a list is available.
There are three major databases to search for archival and manuscript collections in the US: Archive Finder, ArchiveGrid (also includes many online inventories), WorldCat. These overlap to some extent, but each has material not in the others. Archive Finder allows limitation to Massachusetts repositories.
Archives and Manuscript Collections (Columbia University Libraries)
Repositories of Primary Sources (University of Idaho Library)
World Wide Diplomatic Archives Index (U.S. Dept. of State) is a guide to the accessibility of diplomatic archives around the world